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Is the iPad a GameChanger?

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A story gets retold (or spun) from the perspective of history, but the story itself forms in the present. You cannot look forward and say with any authority that a product is going to change the game, you can only look back over time and determine that it has.

As Steve Jobs has said, you cannot connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backward. The objective is to be 'on the dot' in each and every moment, that is, be as productive and generative as you can be with the resources at hand, and work with the confidence that whatever you're doing will turn into a good story someday.

A product or event such as the introduction of the iPad, can only be said to have 'changed the game' from the perspective of history, that is, only after the game, has, in fact, changed. No amount of prognostication, punditry or hype can will a product into being a gamechanger. I'm sure that when the Apple Newton was released, it had the same kind of expectations associated with it that the iPhone did. Same with the NEXT computer. Only looking backward can we see that the iPhone changed the game and the Newton and the NEXT did not.

The event that, according to Jobs, had as much impact on his business success as anything, was a chance encounter with a calligraphy class in college. It launched a lifelong appreciation for typography and elegant design that has informed everything he and the Apple brand have done since. There was no way of knowing at the time that the calligraphy class was going to be a game-changer, any more than there's no way of knowing about the iPad today. But Jobs himself is a gamechanger, and that's why his and Apple's (and Pixar's) narrative has been a good one. He is open to opportunity. Not locked into expected outcomes. Unfazed by his fears. Skilled at working from intuition instead of intellect. When he walked past the doorway to the room where the calligraphy class was being taught, the improviser in Steve Jobs told him it was a good idea to walk through that door. And that one little move has made all the difference in the world. It was a game-changer, for sure. But who could have predicted it at the time?

In short, people and organizations change the game, and they do it in the moment. Products and predictions do not. And only by looking back in history can we know what has truly changed the game.

In terms of business strategy, a brand is naturally going to do everything in its power--and no one does it better than Jobs and Apple--of building the audience's excitement and anticipation for the launch of a new product. At the same time, no one knows better than Jobs that the launch is just like any other scene in the narrative. You do it as well as you can and you move on, not beholden to yours or anyone's scripted expectations for what's to come, but, rather, fully present and ready to walk through any open doorway that looks like it has something interesting happening on the other side.

At this point in time, a month before the iPad's launch all we can know for sure is that Steve Jobs and the Apple organization are gamechangers; and while its odds are way better than that of most new products, only time will tell about the iPad.

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