Why Visionaries Keep Their Mouths Shut

(To the person who has been waiting for this post: yes, I finally got it out.)

I’ve followed Brian Brackeen for years, starting when I worked for IDEMIA. He posted the following observation on Saturday August 13:

Is anyone who puts visionary in their LinkedIn title actually a visionary?

From https://twitter.com/BrianBrackeen/status/1558463913771016193

Most if not all of us on Twitter agreed with Brackeen, with some noting that an exception should be granted for opthamologists and optometrists. My contribution to the discussion was to note that Reid Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn, didn’t call himself a visionary.

I also observed:

Actual visionaries probably DO think of themselves as such. Whether they explicitly say so publicly is another matter.

From https://twitter.com/JEBredCal/status/1558645370397175809

But there was something that I didn’t tweet regarding calling yourself a visionary. Namely, what visionaries say instead of saying “I’m a visionary.”

They’re more intent on communicating the vision, rather than their place as a visionary.

What Steve Jobs said about the successful iMac

Let’s go back to the 1990s, when Steve Jobs returned to the company then known as Apple Computer.

By Rob Janoff – This vector image was created by converting the Encapsulated PostScript file available at Brands of the World (view • download).Remember not all content there is in general free, see Commons:Fair use for more.This tag does not indicate the copyright status of the attached work. A normal copyright tag is still required. See Commons:Licensing., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10326626

While some would probably disagree, many would argue that Steve Jobs was truly a visionary. Throughout his life, he shared several visions for technology, many of which changed the world.

One of those visions was Jobs’ vision of the iMac. People anticipated that Jobs’ return to the company he co-founded would result in some new insanely great thing. But when Jobs talked about the iMac, he didn’t say, “I’m Steve Jobs, and this is my next revolution.” Instead, he took a customer focus and talked about what his next revolution would do.

(The iMac) comes from the marriage of the excitement of the Internet with the simplicity of Macintosh. Even though this is a full-blooded Macintosh, we are targeting this for the #1 use consumers tell us they want a computer for, which is to get on the Internet, simply and fast.

From https://appleinsider.com/articles/18/08/15/apples-revolutionary-imac-is-20-years-old-and-still-going-strong

Nothing about “I am Steve Jobs.”

Nothing about “This is Apple Computer.”

No, his message was that consumers want to “get on the Internet, simply and fast.”

Of course, because it was Jobs, there also had to be a design component in the iMac, and this is the time that we learned that Jony could be spelled with only one “n” and no “h.”

By Stephen Hackett – 512 Pixels; license appears at footer, All iMac G3 images are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License., CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=98724350

In some ways, the iMac message was more compelling because the consumer market was catching up with Jobs’ vision.

  • When the original Macintosh was introduced, the market wasn’t necessarily convinced that an easy-to-use computer was a necessity. (The market would take a few years to catch up.)
From https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R706isyDrqI
  • Back when the first Apple I was introduced, the market didn’t necessarily believe that many people needed a home computer.
By Apple Computer Company, Palo Alto, CA. – Scanned from page 11 of the October 1976 Interface Age magazine by Michael Holley Swtpc6800, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14202549
  • But by the late 1990s, there was a strong desire for people to surf the World Wide Web on the Internet, and therefore people were more receptive to Jobs’ message.

What happened? The iMac was introduced, and while some predicted that the lack of a floppy drive would doom the product, it seemed that Internet access made the floppy drive less significant.

Oh, and one more thing:

Of course, (Ken) Segall also noted that the use of the “i” could later be adapted to future Apple products. Which, of course, it was.

From https://appleinsider.com/articles/18/08/15/apples-revolutionary-imac-is-20-years-old-and-still-going-strong

And Apple Computer changed its name, because it was no longer just an insanely great computer company.

What John Sculley said about the unsuccessful Knowledge Navigator…or was it actually a success?

Now at the time, critics could argue that Apple Computer lacked customer focus. After all, why release a computer that didn’t have a floppy drive? That’s as customer-unfriendly as releasing a non-DOS computer in 1984.

But there’s a difference between short-term customer focus and long-term customer focus.

There are many points in Apple’s long history in which it could have opted for the safe and sane approach. And perhaps that could have yielded a nice quarterly profit without pouring all that money into silly stuff, including the 1987 Knowledge Navigator concept video.

From https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=umJsITGzXd0

Apple never built the Knowledge Navigator. I don’t think that even John Sculley expected Apple to build the Knowledge Navigator. And even if he had tried to get it built, the public loudly told him that the idea was stupid and he didn’t know what he was talking about.

But Sculley’s concept (for which he credited Alan Kay) had more customer focus than the customers of 1987 realized. Over the years, actual products were released that could trace their lineage back to Knowledge Navigator, ranging from Clippy to Google Assistant to Teams/Zoom/et al…

…to the iMac.

Sometimes it takes some time, and several visionaries, to realize the vision.

What Bredemarket says about communicating your vision

Perhaps you’re a visionary in the Inland Empire that is readying your own iMac or Knowledge Navigator or better pizza topping.

And you want to communicate your vision to potential customers via some type of written content.

But before you write a single word of that content, you need to ask yourself some questions (even for a short piece of content):

  • Why does your offering change your customers’ lives?
  • How will it change their lives?
  • What is the offering?
  • What is the goal of the piece of content?
  • What are the benefits (not the features, the benefits) of your offering?
  • Who is the target audience for this content?

When Bredemarket works with you to create written content, these are just some of the questions that I ask you to ensure that the final written product will achieve results.

If I can work with you to create your written content, please contact me.

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