Monday, March 22, 2010

Think Different

Do you remember Apple Computer? Likely, the answer is, of course! My first Mac was a beige box with a rainbow apple logo, a clunky CRT monitor, and a 1.2 GB hard drive. It was a great machine for page design, web design, and word processing; but not much else. Apple was suffering greatly at that time, and the question was whether or not it would even be around in a few short years. Looking back, I don't understand what I saw in that computer. But I DID see something, because I've been loyal ever since.

The company had a campaign with a simple message: "Think Different." The print ads featured great people, free-thinkers, and world changers of history. Eventually, the apparently excommunicated founder, Steve Jobs, returned to his seat as CEO of the company which was the catalyst for the realization of this long-running motto. Grammatical correctness aside, it was a profoundly simple statement that may well have shaped my thinking life, but certainly motivated me to work harder to do so.

More than a catchy marketing slogan, the company obviously took the philosophy to heart. It has been an almost non-stop, ahead-of-the-curve innovation machine since the release of the original iMac. They feature a whole line of now-trite but catchy "i" products. I'm told it stands for "internet," but it could easily stand for "innovation." One simple letter defined an entire technophile culture—reinventing digital communication from music and movies to business and social networking. From the iPod to the iPhone, and now the iPad, Apple has even changed the way we use technology. Not only have they innovated products, but they innovated culture.

The point of all this is to ask: what did I see in the future of a struggling company, whose product was almost as beige as their competitors'? Simply, I saw something different. Inside that beige box was a heart of gold (which, incidentally, is still ticking 15+ years later). It was just easy to use, without trying to smother me with user-friendliness, and yet it was extremely reliable—with never any viruses or fatal system errors that required technical support. In short, it isn't pretty now, but it still works.

The seeds of that simple greatness have compounded for Apple to form the authority on innovation that they now are: both technology and culture leaders. How not, with a statement like this:
Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.
How's that for Thinking Different?
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