Why Steve Jobs’ “Think Different” Still Matters for Today’s Change Leaders

Arnoud Franken
3 min readMay 18, 2022

Getting others to see the world differently and inspired to act on your idea or strategy is important to remain relevant and successful in an ever changing and noisy world.

But it can be an absolute headache to achieve.

Even when your idea or strategy is demonstrably better than what is out there, people often resist, hold on tightly to ‘how things are done around here’, question the certainty of your approach and its benefits. Consequently, nothing changes or only at a snail’s pace.

This inaction doesn’t mean that nothing bad will happen. While many are busy finding reasons for not acting on your idea or strategy, the external world moves on. Opportunities come and go. Meanwhile, you see the gap between what the market demands and your organisation offers widen by the day. That’s highly frustrating, deeply unfulfilling, and not necessary.

What it requires to get unstuck and move forward is to think different.

When you watch Steve Jobs’ ‘Think Different’ speech on YouTube, he will not tell you how to think different. What he does give you, however, are three priceless questions that are foundational to think different:

  • Who are you?
  • What are you about?
  • Where do you fit into the world?

When you can answer these questions in a straightforward way, it becomes crystal clear for anyone what you stand for.

When you know what you stand for, and thus who you do that for, it creates an intrinsic desire to not let those who believe what you believe down. This means that you start forging deeper relationships with people inside and outside your organisation who share your core belief.

Consequently, you will also start to enhance your situational awareness to proactively identify and act on threats and opportunities, to protect and champion what you stand for. You’ll develop a resilient attitude and lead with intention

And that’s when you start to think different.

When it is not clear what you or your organisation stands for, people will focus on what is clear to them, what they control, and where they experience most pressure. Typically, that is the organisation of their own work, which then happens inside their own stable and familiar bubble of reality. When people look at the world through that lens, the past is used to make sense of the present and to predict the future. As a result, their thinking becomes reflexive — it’s an unconscious “reflex” in response to an occurrence based on what was true in the past.

A lot of our thinking on a daily basis is reflexive or habitual, which is fine when things don’t change in unexpected or dramatic ways. When they do change in these ways, and it affects what you stand for and the people you do it for, it means you have to reflect on how you understand the world. You have to question if your opinions, beliefs and mental models still make sense.

In an ever changing and noisy world, that answer will increasingly be “no”. That means, you have to think about “what could be true?,” the mental model that would have to be invented for that to work, and then act on it collectively.

That is reflective thinking — in order to protect and champion what you stand for and the people who believe what you believe.

That’s how you think different to change the world for the better.



Arnoud Franken

Helping leaders to accelerate meaningful change | Senior Consultant, Strategic Change Leadership | Professor | Keynote Speaker