CIO Required Reading: Apple’s Secret Genius Manual

The traditionally rocky business-IT relationship stems from poor people skills. Apple’s leaked Genius Training Student Workbook helps create empathy.

Apple's leaked Genius Training Student Workbook is kind of creepy: a 14-page psychological thriller on how "geniuses" can outwit simple-minded Apple customers to make them feel better about themselves and Apple products.

Here's a sampling from the secret manual on how to use empathy and words such as "feel, "felt" and "found" to turn a negative attitude into a positive one, courtesy of Gizmodo, which got its hands on the workbook last week:

Customer: "This Mac is just too expensive."

Genius: "I can see how you'd feel this way. I felt the price was a little high, but I found it's a real value because of all the built-in software and capabilities."

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The manual describes visual cues about how customers are feeling. An unbuttoned coat shows an attitude of cooperation. Head in hands says they're bored. Steepling hands show confidence. Moving closer indicates acceptance. Rubbing the nose or eye means they're suspicious and secretive.

It's the genius guide to poker tells – and every CIO should read it.

Truth is, business and IT have had a rocky relationship in part because of sorely lacking people skills.

IT folks secretly think business users aren't on their intellectual level. (Well, maybe not so secretly: check out InfoWorld's popular series Stupid User Tricks.)

Business users, on the other hand, think IT folks are arrogant, anti-social and have an inflated view of their role in a company. That is, geeks don't understand what makes a company stay in business.

Apple's Genius manual tries to bridge the gap. First rule is that a tech person – in this case, an Apple Genius – must try to discern the customer's attitude. Next, the tech person must attempt to empathize with the customer and not talk down to them.

Only after these steps are taken can the tech person guide the customer to a solution that's not only good for the customer but the IT department as well. The Apple Genius manual aims to make sure customers leave the Apple Store with positive feelings about Apple products.

This, too, can benefit CIOs and IT departments. Imagine business users calling the help desk with computer problems yet leaving the call with a greater appreciation of technology. Now that would be a work of genius.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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