Producing Results Blog

A Tale of Two Apples

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Last week I read an article on Forbes.com about the early days of the Apple computer company. It turns out that when Steve Jobs, Apple’s visionary co-founder who embodies and personifies the company’s slogan of “Think Different,” was asked in 1983 by the team working on the Mac for a standard they should shoot for, Jobs’ answer was simple: the Beatles.

The Beatles.

Not another computer company. Not another tech company. Not even another manufacturing company. A rock group. Steve Jobs wanted Apple to be the Beatles of computer companies. (This, of course, brings up the whole Apple Computer/Apple Records thing, and the lawsuits between the computer company and the Beatles company for which it was, in part, named—but that’s a subject for a whole different posting, if not an entire book.) And, although Apple Computer may not have the market share the Beatles enjoyed, there are still some pretty substantial similarities:

  • Apple products tend to surprise us. We never know what’s coming next, and we can’t wait to find out.
  • Apple products have a “cool” factor that most of the competition just can’t seem to match.
  • Apple customers are devoted to their products; they are real “groupies.”

Now, I make my living helping businesses and associations become the Beatles of their industry, so I was, of course, pleased to see that Steve Jobs had seen fit to emulate the Fab Four. But even more than that, I was pleased to see him looking outside of his own industry.

Too often we only look within for the answers. Within ourselves, within our circle of friends, within our industry. We want to be more successful, so we ask, “What are my competitors doing?” Yes, that’s an important question to ask, but it’s not the only question. We need to broaden our view. If we keep talking to the same people and keep reading the same journals, we’re going to keep getting the same answers. I challenge my audiences to look at what made the Beatles successful, and to then think about how they can transfer the success secrets of the Beatles’ world to their world. What I’m doing is forcing them to look at their own situation with new eyes. And it works!

Try it yourself. No matter what business you’re in, ask yourself the question: “How can my business be more like the Beatles?” Yes, you’ll come up with some goofy answers:

  • we can all wear wigs
  • we can learn how to play guitars
  • we can marry weird Japanese avant-garde artists

But after the goofy ones, you might come up with some that are a little more on-target. (Although you may be inspired to ask yourself: What if we did have an office party where we all wore Beatle wigs? What if we did put a company rock band together? What if we did marry a wierd Japanese avant-garde artist?).

So look outside your world. Get a fresh perspective on things. Other people in other industries may have already invented the wheel that you’re currently working on. All you have to do is find them and then translate what worked for them into your own situation.

Steve Jobs started out by asking, “How can we be more like the Beatles?” And now people all over the world are asking, “How can we be more like Steve Jobs?”

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About the Author:

29-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Bill Stainton, CSP is an expert on Innovation, Creativity, and Breakthrough Thinking. He helps leaders and their teams come up with innovative solutions — on demand — to their most challenging problems.
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