# Book Review: Creative SelectionOct 8, 2018 2 minute read
Creative Selection describes Apple’s product development process under Scott Forstall and Steve Jobs. Written from the perspective of a software engineer. The book describes frequent product demos as they progress through the company’s ranks. This process is what Ken Kocienda calls Creative Selection. And what makes Apple products not successful accidents but deliberate successes. The demos help discuss ideas in concrete terms. And reduce the procrastination associated with imaginary problems and situations.
A software engineer
Ken Kocienda accurately depicts what being a software engineer feels like:
- The pressure to meet deadlines.
- How annoying bugs are.
- How weeks of efforts can get scrapped.
- How valuable feedback can be delivered in suboptimal ways.
- How being a manager is not the logical progression of being an engineer.
- The dread for meetings.
- How programming cannot solve a people problem. But people can always solve programming problems.
- The pride of building a widely used product.
He does a good job explaining hard engineering problems with simple metaphors.
Beware of doing things the Apple way
While Apple has its reasons to follow certain practices, chances are your company is not Apple.
Collaboration and Secrecy
Creative Selection covers with many examples the strong secrecy ambient around product development. Apple employees had multiple NDA contracts. The author mentions how collaboration is fundamental to create great products. But many examples in the book show otherwise. Product features are generally built by a single person. Individuals can only ask for help to experts in other areas of the company as long as they don’t know what the help is for.
Small teams with direct access to executives in a fairly flat organizational structure.
Whiteboard discussions feel like work, but often they’re not, since it is too difficult to talk about ideas in the abstract.
A long QA cycle before product releases. Where the bug count does not decrease before an imminent release date.
The author name figures in several Apple patents.
The practices described in the book have changed over the last years1. Yet, this book is a firsthand account of the development of products that would end up changing the world. At worst it is an interesting history read.
The author mentions this change is one of the reasons he left Apple. ↩