Earlier this week, Tim Cook sat down for an interview with Adam Lashinsky from Fortune in order to discuss education, privacy, human rights and immigration. But more importantly, Cook wanted to explain why Apple takes a strong stance on these topics. In some cases, taking a strong stance on human rights, for example, can be controversial. In today’s world, especially if you live in the United States, things like privacy and immigration are also hot-button topics. I know myself, I can’t get into some of these topics with friends or family members, so why take such a strong stance publically? According to Cook, Apple has always been about changing the world. And, as we all know, change doesn’t happen when you remain quiet. While I don’t consider myself to be Apple, I do try to push certain topics in an attempt to start the conversation.
That said, Apple doesn’t have any guidelines about when they will or won’t speak out. Earlier in the year, Apple was quite vocal about supporting any Apple employee who was part of the Dreamer group. Did they have to go on record and make those statements? Absolutely not. But the fact remains that they did. How and why they did it, is another matter. Here is an excerpt from Cook’s interview, and it’s well worth the read:
“We’ve always been about changing the world and it became clear to me some number of years ago that you don’t do that by staying quiet on things that matter. For us, that’s been the driving issue. There’s no formula for when you speak and when you don’t. The way I think about it… is it something Apple has a special expertise on? I don’t want Apple to be another talking head. We should only speak when we have specific knowledge to bring to the subject.”
I think that last piece is key. Sure, there are certain topics where you are going to be the subject matter expert. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t talk about things with other people. Ask questions. Try to understand another person’s opinion for a change. I mean, I’m not supportive of Trump’s policies, but I would certainly talk to someone who believes strongly in what he’s doing. Let’s have that conversation and attempt to understand one another. That doesn’t mean that we have to agree.
Cook also suggests that because of the size of the company they feel they have an “obligation” (of sorts) to use their voice. In his opinion, businesses shouldn’t only deal with the business aspect of things. Meaning, you’re working with people and people have values. Therefore, by extension, the companies should also have values. I think this is especially true for tech giants like Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Amazon. I know I’ve left out a ton in that list, but I think you get the point. Yes, these companies are bringing some incredible technology to the world. But it’s people who are going to use that technology. If you’re notoriously against immigrants, then there’s a chance that an immigrant isn’t going to use your product. And they’re going to tell their friends who are likely to stop as well.
I’m not suggesting that these companies have to be pro-immigration or pro any particular topic on the surface. But I am suggesting that they really need to assess their values to make sure that they align with their consumers, otherwise they’re going to have a problem with sales. Which is why there are some companies that are doing better than others. Regardless of that, I’m happy to see Apple taking a stand on controversial topics as it, at least, gets people talking.