4 Critical Leadership Takeaways From Apple’s “Mapgate” Fiasco


I miss Google Maps on my iPhone. It was taken away without my consent and I want it back.

If you have an iPhone, then you probably know what I’m talking about.

If you don’t have an iPhone, here’s what happened over the last few months:

  1. Apple rolls out its new Map app.
  2. Customers freak.
  3. Apple apologizes because it’s less than stellar.
  4. Apple fires a few leaders as a result.

Headaches for many (including and almost always forgotten, the customer). But the lessons don’t stop with a botched product. Watching how Apple has handled the communication and the leadership shake-up is what fascinates me most.

Leadership lessons from “Mapgate” apply to us all

  1. What’s good for the organization may not be good for you. Apple zapped Google maps from its smartphone for business reasons. Good for Apple (it thought). Bad for customers (at least in the short-term). Similarly, your organization or its leaders may move in a direction that is not where you personally want to go. You’ve got a decision to make — drink the Kool-Aid lovingly or move on.
  2. Reputations stick. Apple Maps blew it. I’ll forever be skeptical of Siri’s directional accuracy. Stereotypes are difficult to shake. Who’s excited to work with “Micromanaging Miranda” or “Humorless Harry”? Don’t all raise your hands at once.
  3. Take off the blinders. Test, retest and test again. Half baked designs and deployment always come back to haunt us. Often we think an idea/program is amazing, we’re on track, we’ve got tons of support only to be blindsided by a huge roadblock. Listen, ask questions and spend some time outside the echo chamber.
  4. Be prepared for the fall. In Apple’s case, Scott Forstall and Richad Williamson got the boot. Don’t bury your head in the political sand. If someone’s going down, that someone could be you. Have a plan, keep your network warm and be prepared that fingers might all be pointing in your direction.

Leaders fall and products fail. As much as we’d like to stay out of the mess, we may find ourselves lost in the thick of it.

Make sure you have a reliable map to find your way out.

This was originally published on PeopleResult’s Current blog.

  • Patti Johnson

    Great post! And important reminder that when the customer isn’t first on the list it comes back around. Thanks!

    • Marta Steele

      Thanks Patti. It’s too bad when customers are last on the list!

  • Martha Duesterhoft

    Love your observations Marta! I wonder if they ever even asked the customer base about what map options they prefer when testing it? Could there have been an option for the customer? Did they even test it? These are some questions I’d like to get to the bottom of.

    • Marta Steele

      Do I sense some Map frustrations? Ask the customer?! What a concept!

  • Heather Nelson

    Great post Marta. Another applicable lesson – the customer has some amazing, speedy platforms available in this age to express their discontent – all the more reason to test ideas with customers before flipping the switch.

    • Marta Steele

      So true Heather. We’ll make our feelings known — quickly and all over the place. Yikes.

  • sheri Browning

    I love the point especially about the fact that “reputations stick” Marta – well said!

    • Marta Steele

      Thank you Sheri. Reputations are like first impressions. They’re hard to reset.

  • Julie Porter

    Agree Marta! So important to “test, test and test again.” So many brands miss that critical step resulting in loss of all types of resources, brand equity, money, etc. Kudos to you!

  • Joe Baker

    Nice insights, Marta. Speed and even tech wizardry doesn’t replace understanding the audience.

  • Barbara Milhizer

    I still haven’t upgraded for that reason! #lastholdout

  • KJordan

    Always hurts to lose a piece of functionality you liked in the effort to “upgrade”!

  • KMErickson

    Hard lessons – but failure can be a good learning experience. Lets hope that’s the case here

  • shelli Walker

    Great blog Marta – Hopefully they learned a hard lesson — customers first!!