179. The Greatest Con
Steve Jobs was the Leonardo da Vinci of modern times. His successes in so many areas have dramatically altered human behavior for billions of people, across every corner of the world (assuming, of course, the world has corners. Separate conversation).
Of all his humanity-altering accomplishments, perhaps the most awe-inspiring feat Steve Jobs accomplished was executing the greatest con the world has seen.
Here’s the con: Steve Jobs got millions of people to buy one-thousand dollar computers by convincing them they were buying a phone.
He even called it a phone. An iPhone.
Yet the iPhone is not a phone. It has a phone, yes, but that’s probably the least important element of the device.
He took an everyday item and embed it in a computer.
Elon Musk is pulling the same type of con. He’s convinced the world that Tesla is a car company.
Tesla is a battery company.
He’s revolutionizing batteries but, alas, people don’t obsess over what battery they want. So he wrapped his battery in the frame of a product people do obsess over: a car.
Voila. He’s suddenly the most valuable battery company in the world.
Don’t Go Changin
After 40 years, I’ve come to the conclusion that Billy Joel was right. You don’t actually have to go changin’ to try and please me.
Humans don’t like change. For all the talk about living on the edge or thinking outside the box, we are programmed to be creatures of habit, naturally drawn to the comfort of predictability.
In fact, the desire for predictability is exactly what led humans to the agrarian society from which our entire existence has emerged.
As we get older, it gets increasingly harder to alter our behavior. (I’m. definitely not going to use the “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” cliche. I would never type something so obvious).
Changing behavior often takes time and is a process of incremental baby steps.
Lasting change is about slowly expanding the edges of the comfort zone in such a way that the person doesn’t even realize the transformation that is taking place.
It’s much easier to expand existing behavior than it is to try and dramatically alter the comfort zone.
Steve Jobs knew this.
Elon Musk knows this.
The most groundbreaking companies are not the ones that are trying to make us do things differently. Instead, they are the ones that allow us to conduct our regular daily behaviors but do them in slightly expanded ways.
Living On The Edge
I admire the Musks’ and Jobs’ of the world. They have a special talent to not only see far into the future, but to bring it to life in ways that appeal to mass culture.
Those types of people though, are a few-in-a-generation type of talents. However, it doesn’t mean we all can’t learn from their success and use it in our daily practice.
In the words of MTV co-founder Tom Freston, “innovation is the act of taking two things that exist and putting them together in new ways.”
I’d say he did that pretty effectively with music and television. And the more you think about it, the more examples you’ll realize that prove Tom’s definition.
Innovation doesn’t have to be dramatic.
All Star Products is a good example of this. They combined a blanket and a robe into one element. They call it a Snuggie and have sold over 30 million of them to date.
Innovation doesn’t have to feel completely new.
The Hot Chocolate 15k/5k is a great example of this one. There is no shortage of running events or places to get chocolate. They are both easily accessible. Yet the innovation of combining these two well-known experiences now accounts for 15 of the top 100 largest running events in the US.
The best businesses, the longest-lasting brands, the most sought-after leaders, are the ones that are comfortable with innovation.
But remember, innovation isn’t a meeting once per year to brainstorm how you can change your business.
Innovation is about daily, incremental steps. It’s about extending the edges of that box slightly further every day.
Innovation is about consistently having a growth mindset, even though it sometimes feels caterpillar-esque in its movement. With continued dedication and a focus on evolution, even the caterpillar will transform over time.
So tell me, what are you doing today to innovate your tomorrow?
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“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower."
- Steve Jobs
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