What Steve Jobs and scorpions can teach us about successful business change


Steve Jobs said marketing is about values. But actually, values are more than marketing.

At the launch of the Apple marketing campaign ‘Think Different’, Steve Jobs said, “Values and core values, those things shouldn’t change. The things that Apple believed in at its core are the same things Apple stands for today”.

Apple’s ‘Think Different’ campaign was about honouring people who think different and move the world forward. But so many leaders fail to move even the company forward.

 

The frog and the scorpion

One of the main reasons for this is that they’ve lost their core values or no longer refer to them as the lodestones they once were.

Most of us will be familiar with Aesop’s fable about the scorpion that asked the frog to give it a lift across the river. The frog is hesitant, fearing the scorpion will sting it. But the scorpion argues that if it stung the frog, they would both drown.

So, reluctantly the frog carries the scorpion across the river. Halfway across the river, the scorpion stings the frog, dooming them both.

When the frog asks the scorpion ‘why?’ The scorpion shrugs and says that it was in its nature to do so. People are appalled by the gloomy pessimism of this fable, and that’s because we are not guided, or motivated or compelled by instinct like the scorpion. We are led by reason.

 

Staying the course on your true north

Earlier, I referred to ‘values’ as a lodestone, which in Middle English means ‘course stone’ or ‘leading stone’ – it’s a good metaphor for how values-led businesses will always know true north.

Without them, companies become lost because companies are the sum total of their people and people are ‘reason seeking creatures’ – we need a ‘why’, and we respond best when we have an over-arching purpose.

Steve Jobs went on to say that, “this is a very complicated world. It is a very noisy world. We are not going to get a chance to get people to remember much about us. No company is. And so, we have to be really clear on what we want people to know about us”.

He concluded that advancing Apple was not a matter of talking about speeds and fees and why Apple is better than Windows, but about Apple’s identity, as defined by its values.

 

What you stand for will show the way

“What is it that we stand for? Where do we fit in this world?” he asked. “What we are about isn’t making boxes for people to get their jobs done. Although we do that well. Apple is about something more. Apple, at the core, its core value, is that we believe that people with passion can change the world for the better.

“Those who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones that actually do,” he said.

Apple’s mission was clear; to enable people with passion who wanted to change the world.

Jobs acknowledged that Apple had changed completely from when it first started out, but values remain – your true north.

Your company and your plans will change, so will your people, but your values can remain consistent.

To help companies stay on true north even when circumstances change, I invite you to download and read our free eGuide on why transformations fail and in particular, why no plan survives the first contact and what to do about it.

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