Tag Archives: Steve Jobs

Why Change Must Be Built on Common Ground

Why Change Must Be Built on Common Ground

GUEST POST from Greg Satell

When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, one of the first things he did was develop a marketing campaign to rebrand the ailing enterprise. Leveraging IBM’s long running “Think” campaign, Apple urged its customers to “Think Different.” The TV spots began, “Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes…”

Yet Jobs actual product strategy did exactly the opposite. While other technology companies jammed as many features into their products as they could to impress the techies and the digerati, Jobs focused on making his products so ridiculously easy to use that they were accessible to everyone. Apple became the brand people would buy for their mothers.

The truth is that while people like the idea of being different, real change is always built on common ground. Differentiation builds devotion among adherents, but to bring new people in, you need to make an idea accessible and that means focusing on values that you share with outsiders, rather than those that stir the passions of insiders. That’s how you win.

Overcoming the Desire to Be Different

Apple’s ad campaign was effective because we are tribal in nature. Setting your idea apart is a great way to unlock tribal fervor among devotees, but it also sends a strong signal to others that they don’t belong. For example, for decades LGBTQ activists celebrated their difference with “Gay Pride,” which made gay people feel better, but didn’t resonate with others.

It’s not much different in the corporate world. Those who want to promote Agile development love to tout the Agile Manifesto and its customer focused ethos. It’s what they love about the Agile methodology. Yet for those outside the Agile community, it can seem more than a bit weird. They don’t want to join a cult, they just want to get their job done.

So, the first step to driving change forward is to make the shift from differentiating values, which make ardent fans passionate about an idea, to shared values, which invite people in. That doesn’t mean you’re abandoning your core values any more than making products accessible meant that Apple had to skimp on capability. But it does create an entry point.

This is a surprisingly hard shift to make, but you won’t be able to move forward until you do.

Identifying and Leveraging Your Opposition

Make no mistake. Change fails because people want it to fail. Any change that is important, that has the potential for real impact, will inspire fierce resistance. Some people will simply hate the idea and will try to undermine your efforts in ways that are dishonest, deceptive and underhanded. That is the chief design constraint of any significant change effort.

So, you’re going to want to identify your most active opposition because you want to know where the attacks are going to be coming from. However, you don’t want to directly engage with these people because it is unlikely to be an honest conversation. Most likely, it will devolve into something that just bogs you down and drains you emotionally.

However, you can listen. People who hate your idea are, in large part, trying to persuade many of the same people you are. Listening to which arguments they find effective can help unlock shared values and that’s what holds the key to truly transformational change. But most importantly, they can help you define shared values.

So, while your main focus should be on empowering those who are excited about change, you should pay attention to your most vocal opposition. In fact, with some effort, you can learn to love your haters. They can point out early flaws. Also, as you begin to gain traction they will often lash out and overreach, undermine themselves and and end up sending people your way.

Defining Shared Values

Your most active opposition, the people who hate your idea and want to undermine it, have essentially the same task that you do. They want to move people who are passive or neutral to support their position and will design their communication efforts to achieve that objective. If you listen carefully though, you can make their efforts work for you.

For example, when faced with President Woodrow Wilson’s opposition to voting rights for women, Alice Paul’s band of Silent Sentinels picketed the White House with phrases lifted from President Wilson’s own book. How could he object, without appearing to be a tremendous hypocrite, to signs that read, “LIBERTY IS A FUNDAMENTAL DEMAND OF THE HUMAN SPIRIT?

In a similar vein, those who opposed LGBTQ rights often did so on the basis of family values and it was, for decades, a very effective strategy. That is, until LGBTQ activists used it against them. After all, shouldn’t those of different sexual orientations be able to live in committed relationships and raise happy and health families? If you believe in the importance of families, how could you not support same sex marriages?

The strategy works just as well in a corporate environment. In our Transformation & Change workshops, we ask executives what those who oppose their idea say about it. From there, we can usually identify the underlying shared value and then leverage it to make our case. Once you identify common ground, it’s much easier to move forward.

Surviving Victory

Steve Jobs, along with his co-founder Steve Wozniak, started Apple to make computers. But if that’s all Apple ever did, it would never have become the world’s most valuable company. What made Jobs the iconic figure he became had nothing to do with any one product, but because he came to represent something more: the fusion of technology and design.

In his autobiography of Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson noted that he revolutionized six industries, ranging from music to animated movies, far afield from the computer industry. He was able to do that because he continued to focus on the core values of using technology and design to make products more accessible to ordinary people.

In other words, in every venture he undertook he looked for common ground by asking himself, “how can we make this as easy as possible for those who are not comfortable with technology.” He didn’t merely cater to the differences of his hard core enthusiasts, but constantly looked to bring everybody else in.

Many companies have had hit products, but very few have had the continued success of Apple. In fact, success often breeds failure because it attracts new networks of competitors. Put another way, many entrepreneurs fail to survive victory because they focus on a particular product rather than the shared values that product was based on.

Jobs was different. He was passionate about his products, but his true calling was tapping into basic human desires. In other words, he understood that truly revolutionary change is always built on common ground.

— Article courtesy of the Digital Tonto blog
— Image credit: Unsplash

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How to Design Like Apple

Steve Jobs was a notorious perfectionist. Apple engineers and designers went through hundreds of revisions on every prototype that made it into his hands. But Jobs’ maniacal obsession paid off. No gadget on the market is as instantly recognizable nor as coveted as the latest iteration of an Apple product. The company’s dedication to sleek design and intuitive, user-friendly technology has made each iPad, iPhone and Macbook launch an enormous success.

And how did Jobs and Apple do it? The company follows a set of simple but strict rules to ensure that every product meets Jobs’ standards for clean and flawless design. First, design must complement and improve the product’s usability, never detract from it. And of course, Apple’s sleek and uncomplicated aesthetic must be reflected by every component of the product, no matter how small.

Apple’s design philosophy sounds simple, but putting it into practice is more difficult. Check out Online MBA’s latest video to see Apple’s philosophy boiled down into five principles that any designer or brandmaker can leverage in their own work.

A GUEST POST from my friends at OnlineMBA.com


Build a common language of innovation on your team

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Steve Jobs is Dead – Whither innovation at Apple?

Steve Jobs lost his battle against pancreatic cancer. Surely this is a huge loss for his family and friends, for the fans and employees of Apple, and for the business world as a whole because he was one of its most prominent icons. To all of you, I’m sorry for your loss.

But is it the end of innovation at Apple?

Is Apple incapable of innovating without Steve Jobs?

Can you have sustainable innovation without a CEO who sees himself as the Chief Innovation Officer?

Is innovation the purview of the lone inventor, or does it take a village to innovate?

For those of you who know me, or have heard me speak or read my book Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire or my other writings here on the site, you can probably guess which side of the fence I stand on.

Personally, I don’t buy the lone innovator myth and instead think my Nine Innovation Roles is a better way to look at things. Look at the labs of Alexander Graham Bell or Thomas Edison decades ago, or the impact of private and hookah clubs or coffee shops and universities throughout time. Instead I think that organizations need to be looking at the innovation that has come from the interconnectedness of our economies and make sure that their organizations are as interconnected as they need to be to maximize their own innovation capacity. Has your organization built a global sensing network? Should it?

If you were to ask me to describe Steve Jobs from the outside in, I would describe him as a great entrepreneur, not a great innovator. There is a subtle distinction there. Innovators create value, entrepreneurs help people access and translate that value into their life. Entrepreneurs are also really good at helping innovators commercialize things and turn inventions into innovations. Steve Jobs was really good at driving his deep team of talented innovators towards innovative solutions. He was a great innovation leader, but not necessarily a great innovator. In that way it seems like he might have been very much like Thomas Edison, which if he is to be remembered in a comparative sense, is not a bad way at all to be remembered.

Here is a rare Steve Jobs narrated version of the iconic Think Different ad done as a tribute by jeremytai:

Again from the outside looking in, Apple started as a very entrepreneurial company when it was led by an entrepreneur, but lost its way when Steve Jobs was forced out by the executive mindset, only to buy NeXT to get a modern OS to rescue the company (and get Steve Jobs back in the bargain – but also its entrepreneurial mindset). Every organization must continuously look to balance the tension between the entrepreneurial mindset and the executive mindset. Which begs the question:

Should an organization be led by an executive or an entrepreneur?

I have two more final points I want to examine before I go to bed. The first is that I found myself thinking while I was sitting there eating dinner in a coffee shop in New York City when I heard the news that Steve Jobs had died I thought to myself:

  • Is the death of Steve Jobs, my generation’s or avocation’s JFK moment?
  • Will people forever remember where they were when they heard that Steve Jobs died?
  • Have people ever felt that about a business leader before?

And second, in talking with one of my co-founders, Julie Anixter, the question was sparked about whether you can have sustainable innovation without someone fanatical in charge of innovation that isn’t afraid to tell people that their solution sucks and send them back to the drawing board, pushing them towards greatness instead of feeling the need to praise and accept the merely good. This has been the popular outside in perspective on Steve Jobs’ approach to innovation. Is this what it takes? What do you think?

Now, I’ve posed a lot of questions in this piece because death presents more questions than it answers, and I’ll leave you with one or two more.

Am I completely off base here? Will Apple fall into complete disrepair again now that Steve Jobs is gone, again?

Sound off in the comments.

I hope to see you next week at the Business Innovation Conference 2011 or the following week at the Back End of Innovation conference – October 17-19, 2011 in sunny San Diego.

You might also enjoy Renee Blodgett’s post here.

If you’ve read this far down, here are a couple of bonus items:

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Innovation Quotes of the Day – June 8, 2012


“The cure for Apple is not cost-cutting. The cure for Apple is to innovate its way out of its current predicament.”

– Steve Jobs


“The biggest danger to the cause of advancing innovation when it comes to the engineering and marketing departments is that the relationship develops into one without constructive conflict and without healthy collaboration. For innovation to be repeatable in an organization these two sides must share openly, have their perspectives valued, and contribute to a conversation.”

– Braden Kelley


“Some would argue that this winnowing process is more important than the romantic phase of innovation, but I would counter that the benefits of an intense focus on developing an idea can render the innovation strong enough to be able to withstand the inevitable future assaults from the corporate bureaucracy or the marketplace. The time will come for defensive and offensive preparations, but focusing on those aspects too soon can limit the development of an idea.”

– Scott Bowden


“We sit at the nexus of amazing new education technology capabilities, the globalization of work, and an incredible transformation in the needs of employers. The path forward is not the same as the road behind, but our education system is proceeding as if it were.”

– Braden Kelley


What are some of your favorite innovation quotes?

Add one or more to the comments, listing the quote and who said it, and I’ll share the best of the submissions as future innovation quotes of the day!

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Innovation Quotes of the Day – May 24, 2012


“We have a moral obligation to invent new technologies. What if Mozart had been born before the violin and harpsichord?”

– Kevin Kelly


“For whatever reason it may be easier for humans to ascribe innovation to one person (Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Bill Gates, etc.), but it is not necessarily helpful to the success of innovation in organizations to popularize this myth. Instead when it comes to creating more innovation in organizations, we must DESTROY it.”

– Braden Kelley


“Pretty much, Apple and Dell are the only ones in this industry making money. They make it by being Wal-Mart. We make it by innovation.”

– Steve Jobs


What are some of your favorite innovation quotes?

Add one or more to the comments, listing the quote and who said it, and I’ll share the best of the submissions as future innovation quotes of the day!

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Innovation Quotes of the Day – May 10, 2012


“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It’s not about money. It’s about the people you have, how you’re led, and how much you get it.”

– Steve Jobs


“While an innovation vision determines the kinds of innovation that an organization, and an innovation strategy determines what the organization will focus on when it comes to innovation, it is the innovation goals that break things down into tangible objectives that employees can work against.”

– Braden Kelley


“Innovation is creativity with a job to do.”

– John Emmerling


What are some of your favorite innovation quotes?

Add one or more to the comments, listing the quote and who said it, and I’ll share the best of the submissions as future innovation quotes of the day!

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Innovation Quotes of the Day – April 24, 2012


On Einstein’s quote “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” from yesterday:

“I don’t think it is either/or proposition. Imagination leads to new knowledge and new knowledge leads to imagination. At end of the day, you need a balanced team of imaginators and knowledge practitioners/executioners to move the needle.”

– Sanjiv Karani


“Art begins in imitation and ends in innovation.”

– Mason Cooley


“In our hyper-competitive, always-connected world, organizations are increasingly becoming focused on improving both their speed to market and their revenue per headcount. In this environment, more senior leaders every day are seeing innovation as the primary way to gain competitive advantage and to simultaneously increase revenue and cut costs.”

– Braden Kelley


“But innovation comes from people meeting up in the hallways or calling each other at 10:30 at night with a new idea, or because they realized something that shoots holes in how we’ve been thinking about a problem.”

– Steve Jobs


What are some of your favorite innovation quotes?

Add one or more to the comments, listing the quote and who said it, and I’ll share the best of the submissions as future innovation quotes of the day!

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Innovation Quotes of the Day – April 12, 2012


“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”

– Steve Jobs
– Submitted by Lorna Tyrtania


“When you’re playing king of the mountain, you don’t stop playing when you get to the top.”

– Braden Kelley


“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”

– Albert Einstein
– Submitted by Carlos Torres


What are some of your favorite innovation quotes?

Add one or more to the comments, listing the quote and who said it, and I’ll share the best of the submissions as future innovation quotes of the day!

Subscribe to Human-Centered Change & Innovation WeeklySign up here to get Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly delivered to your inbox every week.