29 7 / 2011
What President Obama Can Learn From Apple CEO Steve Jobs
After reading the headline “U.S. Balance Now Less Than Apple Cash” (http://business.financialpost.com/2011/07/28/u-s-balance-now-less-than-apple-cash), it dawned on me that the U.S. government might actually be able to learn a thing or two from our favorite Cupertino-based tech giant.
And after seeing Obama’s address to the nation this morning, and his last one on Monday, and being almost bored to tears, I think he can learn a thing or two from Apple CEO, Steve Jobs.
Use A Keynote
Obama is on Twitter, but he’s never heard of PowerPoint? (or in a perfect world, Apple’s Keynote) I know it would be a first for any president, but Obama could really take a cue from Steve’s playbook here. Some things are just better seen than heard.
Jobs is a master at this. During his Keynote addresses to release new products and initiatives, he has slides to back him up complete with stunning visuals, charts, graphs, emphasized words and numbers, and other visual cues that greatly compliment the words he is saying.
Particularly when discussing complex issues, having a visual representation could really come in handy for Obama. All this talk about the debt ceiling and how Congress dealt with it in previous years, all the amounts, comparing this bill to that bill— it would be way easier to digest that info with some slides.
Not to mention, Obama could even make the deck available to view or downloads afterwards so that people that were interested could really absorb the data after the fact.
Being Smart Is Different Than Talking Smart
Steve Jobs is clearly an intelligent person, far more intelligent than you or I (well, I can’t speak for you, but he’s way more intelligent than I am). But I never feel like Jobs is talking down to me. He speaks in layman’s terms, like he was explaining it to his grandma at the dinner table.
Obama reminds me more of Mark Zuckberg than of Steve Jobs in how he talks about the nerdy details. Almost as if he’s speaking over us.
When Obama puts things in simple terms, you can’t help but think it pains him to do so. It just comes off as patronizing.
He needs to find a way to tap that into the Steve Jobs balance of saying really intelligent things in a way that everyone can relate to.
Be Playful When Talking About The Competition
Steve Jobs often mentions competitors. He does so with a wry smile, and with facts and figures to back that smile up. Instead of putting the competition down, he uses data to say it for him.
I can imagine him saying about Android tablet sales something like, “So about Android tablets…” then a slide comes up showing the iPad’s insane lead over Android tablet sales, “I guess we don’t really need to worry about them right now.” (audience laughs)
Obama sounds annoyed when he talks about those that oppose him or his party, verging on sore loser.
Now of course I’m sure his speechwriters are trying to play to the middle, and so he has to tip-toe around speaking out directly against his political opponents, particularly in cases where he is trying to find a bi-partisan compromise. But if he used Jobs’s method of letting the data speak for itself (but again, presenting it in a very simple way), then it would let him avoid saying anything directly negative altogether and make him seem tasteful all at the same time.
Tell Us Why We Care
Apple has made a habit of inventing products that make our lives better, even if we didn’t even know we needed it beforehand. Steve Jobs often announces these products by asking a simple, almost rhetorical question, and then having a new product that answers that question. And… voila! We have the solution!
A more Jobsian approach to explaining the debt ceiling would be, “If the government was quickly approaching its spending limit, we’d all be in bad shape pretty soon, wouldn’t we? Well now, that doesn’t need to happen. Introducing… raising the debt ceiling!”
It’s a simple tactic that gets you instantly excited simply because you feel like you just found the solution to a problem, even if 5 minutes earlier you didn’t even know or care about that problem.
Speak In Front Of A Live Audience
The format where Obama speaks to the camera like he did on Monday freaks me out. It is the same format he used when he announced Osama Bin Laden was dead. Maybe in that instance it worked, although my personal preference would have been to drop the mic before walking off stage, but that’s just me.
Imagine if when Steve Jobs had a new product announcement, he just setup his iSight in a room alone, and spoke into it. Awkward!!!
Obama’s speech today was in front of journalists at least, but really to be effective, I think he should make these sorts of speeches in front of real Americans. Stopping short of a giant outdoor crowd for each little announcement, he could still get a room full of people together. And what’s even more important than the people physically in front of him, is how he should address the nation watching at home.
When Obama speaks it’s like he is just having a conversation one-on-one. Some would say this is a strength. But in my opinion, this is not the way that a leader commands his or her audience. He should speak with conviction; he should command our attention with his voice.
He should speak in that motivational borderline yell like so many iconic speakers before him. He should look up and out, and make grand, impactful speeches, which we know he is more than capable of doing as that’s what got him the nation’s attention in the first place! The calm speech Obama is not the Obama we elected. Play to your strengths brah!
Steve Jobs plays the crowd better than some of the greatest entertainers in the world. By the end of his presentations, you are eating out of his hand. Obama should aim to achieve that same effect.
If You Really Don’t Like It, Change It Yourself
Steve Jobs has led Apple into different markets over the years citing that he simply had a better solution.
Existing MP3 players? Don’t like ‘em. So we made the iPod. Existing smart phones? Not for us. So we made the iPhone. Using physical CDs, DVDs, or video game cartridges? Lame. So we made iTunes/App Store.
So while I’m sure it’s easier said than done, where is Obama’s debt plan? He keeps telling Congress to reach an agreement by making alterations to plans that no one really thinks are that great in the first place.
This is an opportunity to come in with iBudget - the revolutionary new bill that will change the way we look at balancing the budget forever!
Obviously I know nothing about politics, but I do know a lot about Apple, and I know that they are damn successful.
Maybe Barack can invite Jobs over to D.C. for a little King’s Speech type deal. Maybe he can redesign the White House while he’s out there too…
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