Six years I wrote a booklet called How to Build Sustainable Value. It attempted to bridge the divide between the mindset of strategists and the mindset of creatives. At the time you either felt like you were a supporter of business school logic and “metrics” or you were creative and disdainful of rational approaches to brand-building.
Nowadays one rarely encounters this dueling of mindsets. How has business culture changed so markedly? I believe it is largely due to the leadership of Steve Jobs who built a remarkable brand with truly remarkable products making Apple the most valuable company in the world. He had a buddhist-inspired appreciation of simplicity and an extraordinary grasp of both technology and design. As Walter Isaacson’s biography makes painfully clear, he also had the cold-hearted narcissism to think differently and the doggedness to make things happen.
When Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad he said, “The reason Apple can create products like the iPad is that we’ve always tried to be at the intersection of technology and liberal arts.” Indeed Apple products are astonishing fusions of elegant design and way-out-in-front technology. They are supported by marketing communications that are not only functional they are also emotionally appealing. And furthermore they are sold in stores that are temples to this higher sensibility.
Apple stores have smashed retail sales records. No emotional luddite nor design cynic can argue with the numbers. Jobs “thought different” and has succeeded in making everyone else think differently also. In the business world the dichotomy between design-thinking and technological competence has disappeared. There is no rift between strategy and art. Let this be Steve’s legacy.