If Steve Jobs was still alive, we’d never have seen the New York Post headline “Apple employees say they’ll quit over Tim Cook’s return-to-office push: ‘F–k RTO’”.
He famously said “I’d rather be a pirate than be in the Navy”. As a pirate, he’d have enthusiastically adopted remote work because remote working is absolutely the Pirate move.
The ‘Pirates of the Golden Age’ that Jobs admired were all about doing what the Navy didn’t, couldn’t or wouldn’t. They embraced any new methods and equipment that would give them an advantage. They developed new techniques, modified their ships and weapons to make them better, faster, more agile. They would use daring and innovative strategies and frequently outwitted their opponents.
They had the courage to ‘Think Different’ (Wasn’t that someone’s advertising slogan once?).
This enabled them to overcome the greater and more powerful forces of King Philip of Spain’s Navy, who responded by doubling-down on the methods that were failing. They sent more of the same ships and armed them more heavily, without addressing any of the inherent disadvantages of this approach.
The Pirates’ ships were faster, more manoeuvrable and better armed. The Pirates themselves were more skilled sailors, gunners and marksman, had better weaponry and were more committed fighters than the poorly-armed, under-trained conscripts they faced. The Pirates continued to win.
Today, Apple are behaving like the Spanish Navy. They are doubling-down on the methods that worked in the past, against weaker opponents (because the Spanish had successfully overpowered the Central and South American peoples who only had spears and arrows). They want to get people back in the office and keep them there as long as possible to get the most out of them they can.
Like King Phillip of Spain, they are annoyed by the losses they are incurring are but the gold is still pouring in, so they keep doing what they’ve always done, relying on their power and sheer weight of resources to prevail.
Meanwhile, the pirates are embracing the possibilities of remote working so they can punch far above their weight and run rings around Apple’s navy.
To some extent, it was inevitable that Apple would become the Navy. They aren’t the underdog anymore, they are most valuable company in the world. It doesn’t come much more establishment than that.
It’s not all Cook’s fault but Jobs would have seen the likes of Automatic, GitHub and Twitch grow as remote-first businesses and seen that was future. He would wanted Apple to serve that market and insisted Apple staffers use their own products (like he did with the iPad) and work remotely. He’d have seen the wins of being remote first over office-centric.
And he’d have seen it as a great way to outflank his competitors, once again.
Remote-first is totally the Pirate move and Jobs just wouldn’t have been able to resist hoisting his Jolly Roger and sailing into the future.