I'm sure you're all following the iPhone 4 story. If you hold the phone a certain way, it drops calls.

In a press conference on the subject, Steve Jobs said, "We're not perfect. Phones are not perfect. We all know that. But we want to make our users happy."

Jobs got a lot of heat about his response. Where was the apology? Where was the part where he acknowledged that the buck stops with him, and that Apple made a big mistake that never should have happened? That's public relations 101, right?

I'm a student of how language influences people. Apple's response to the iPhone 4 problem didn't follow the public relations playbook because Jobs decided to rewrite the playbook. (I pause now to insert the necessary phrase Magnificent Bastard.) If you want to know what genius looks like, study Jobs' words: "We're not perfect. Phones are not perfect. We all know that. But we want to make our users happy."

Jobs changed the entire argument with nineteen words. He was brief. He spoke indisputable truth. And later in his press conference, he offered clear fixes.

Did it work? Check out the media response. There's lots of talk about whether other smartphones are perfect or not. There's lots of talk about whether Jobs' response was the right one. But the central question that was in everyone's head before the press conference - "Is the iPhone 4 a dud" - has, well, evaporated. Part of the change in attitude is because the fixes Apple offered are adequate. But those fixes easily could have become part of the joke if handled in an apologetic "please kick me" way.

If Jobs had not changed the context from the iPhone 4 in particular to all smartphones in general, I could make you a hilarious comic strip about a product so poorly made that it won't work if it comes in contact with a human hand. But as soon as the context is changed to "all smartphones have problems," the humor opportunity is gone. Nothing kills humor like a general and boring truth.

I've wondered for some time if Jobs studied hypnosis, or if he's some sort of freakish natural. And I wonder how much of his language is planned versus off-the-cuff. He speaks and acts like a master hypnotist. (For new readers, I'm a trained hypnotist myself, and it definitely takes one to know one.)

I have long had a name for Jobs' clever move. I call it the "High Ground Maneuver." I first noticed an executive using it years ago, and I've since used it a number of times when the situation called for it. The move involves taking an argument up to a level where you can say something that is absolutely true while changing the context at the same time. Once the move has been executed, the other participants will fear appearing small-minded if they drag the argument back to the detail level. It's an instant game changer.

For example, if a military drone accidentally kills civilians, and there is a public outcry, it would be a mistake for the military to spend too much time talking about what went wrong with that particular mission. The High Ground Maneuver would go something like this: "War is messy. No one wants civilians to die. We will study this situation to see how we can better avoid it in the future."

Notice that the response is succinct, indisputably true, and that the context has been taken to a higher level, about war in general. That's what Jobs did. It's a powerful technique, and you can use it at home.

There's a limit to the method. I don't think that BP could have gotten away with it as a response to the oil spill because the problem was so large and it seemed unique to BP. But if they had tried the High Ground Maneuver, it would have looked like this: "All of the easy sources of oil have been found fifty years ago. If the oil industry stops taking risks, many of you would be out of work in less than a decade. We all want a future of clean energy, but no one sees a way to get there as quickly as we need to. We will do everything we can to clean up the spill, and to make things right with the Gulf economy."

Someday business students will read about Steve Jobs' response to the iPhone 4 issue and they will learn that the High Ground Maneuver (probably by some other name) became the public relations standard for consumer products companies from that day on.
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-26 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 23, 2010
Wow... you wanna see the future, look at this: http://www.taranfx.com/worlds-cheapest-tablet Probably not as good a device as the iPad, but all the main features, open source, and... a $35 price point scaling below $20 once it hits mass market.

A mass produced $20 open source tablet computer with a billion international users will probably change the world pretty radically. Weird that a $500 proprietary variant of the same thing struck me as a wealthy person's novelty a week ago.
-20 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 22, 2010
Steve Jobs is a very successful and sharp businessman. However, the fact is Apple rushed the iPhone 4 out before it was ready because of typical stockholder and executive gluttony. End of Story.

For my delusional PhD and MBA dunces. Job's response was NOT brilliant. He simply used the Jedi mind trick on you out of touch retards. Nevertheless, those with a brain understand that Steve simply gave a HUGE middle finger to everybody !$%*!$%* about the iPhone 4. It was nothing more than compensating behavior for intellectual infantile issues.
Jul 22, 2010
"Apple loves its customers... they reward us with their loyalty."

Nice appeal that customers should not be faithless and return their phones, no? Much better than "Please don't kick me." Much better than, "It's your fault for holding it the wrong way." Got a name for that?
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 21, 2010
I wish there was a "High Ground Maneuver" class. I would be first in line to sign up. Or how about a class to think like YOU. warped. i love it.
Jul 20, 2010
@zimbido: Whether the IP4 update changes the number of bars to show more or less bars is not the issue. Changing an indicator on a display rather than fixing the antenna is the critical issue.

I own Apple products. I've been a fan of a lot of their stuff. Haven't liked some of their stuff, too. If you like to tweak and mod gear (for fun or for performance), Apple is not for you. If you like a black box closed system, feel free to kneel at the Temple of Apple no matter what they do.

However, it's patronizing and dubious for Apple to think iPhone customers are going to swallow any solution outside of fixing the damn antenna problem. Apple put lipstick on a pig.

Apple sold a ton of iPhones to date, but they also know how many sales they are losing every day since the issue was exposed. You know there was a think tank at Apple HQ sweating out how they could spin this for damage control before they ever consulted with one engineer about actually solving the problem.
Jul 20, 2010
'Perfect' is such a strong word. No one is perfect to argue.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 20, 2010
The "We all know that" part is also very important when manipulating with words.

I think there is still an good humor opportunity, you can play with the "We're not perfect" and "But we want to make our users happy" parts being used for a failure that´s a clear negligence and that somehow makes the life of the user not precisely happy.
+10 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 20, 2010
Isn't this a straw man argument.

Can't there be some humor with a similar response which makes a totally inappropriate straw man given by the pointed haired boss

Box 1

PHB - What happened to the report I asked Friday
Dilbert - I told you then that I had mailed it to you on Wednesday

Box 2

Dilbert - Did you not check your mail or did you forget
PHB (thinking) - Should do high ground maneuver

Box 3

PHB - Busy people forget. Managers are busy. We all know that. But I don't want to be busy and be a manager.
Dilbert - !
Jul 20, 2010
Hey, I LOVE apple products. I know they cost a lot more than comparative equipment, but that's OK because I LOVE apple products.

So what if my new phone doesn't work when I hold it? It's an apple so I LOVE it.

Cognitive dissonance rules!!!!!
-15 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 20, 2010
Apparently, Apple also controls the ratings system on this blog. Anything negative toward them is rated highly negative and any positive comment is highly rewarded. Hmmmm, I wonder what else they control? Oh well, I guess I better be nice to them:

I love you Steve!!! :):):):)

(Waiting for my reward)
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 20, 2010
Was it convincing?
Jul 20, 2010
i learned something today.
-27 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 20, 2010
I have no problem dragging the argument back to the specific.

Maybe my phone is not perfect, but it does not stop working when I pick it up, unlike your POS.

That 'civillian' was not some generic resource the military can score up or down against success and blunders. It was my Uncle Ahkbar. An uncle who owed me money, which I am never going to see again.

Weasle words Scott, not hypnotism and most certainly not genius.

Jul 19, 2010
The word you're looking for is spin.
+61 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 19, 2010
Any sufficiently advanced sales technique is indistinguishable from hypnosis.
-66 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 19, 2010
"I'm sure you're all following the iPhone 4 story."

Actually, no. I don't see what all of the hype is about anyway. I don't own an iPhone. Never have, and never will.


I would like to comment on the insane positive and negative ratings on some of these posts. I'm sure no one is keeping score -- or really cares who has the highest or lowest number, except for the children who get a thrill in "finishing first".

Maybe Scott would consider abandoning the whole "thumb up - thumb down" feature? I really don't see a purpose in it. I mean, is someone going to win an iPhone 4 for having the most "thumbs up"? It won't matter because the flaming thing won't work anyway...
Jul 19, 2010
Im not really sure which parts condescension or bitterness you perceived as hypnosis, but I thought it was a pretty shallow tapdance. Perhaps hypnotists are more susceptible to their own mechanics.

I saw nothing brilliant, genius, or eveil about it. To me it was just your typical sixpack of corporate half truths delivered by a familiar yet somewhat angry face. Most of it was better left unsaid.
+13 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 19, 2010
@KnowItAll: Please note precisely what part of reality was distorted here, other than by the Apple Vitriol astroturfers?

@CultureVulture: The update makes the phone show *fewer* bars, not *more*. Back to the drawing board on your theory.
-27 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 19, 2010
As others have noted, Steve Jobs' "Reality Distortion Field" is a well-known phenomenon already (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reality_distortion_field).

I believe this may be the first time it's been applied so blatantly to the public though.
+62 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 19, 2010
What a great article! The Dilbert strip always seems to cut to the chase of business boneheadedness and this is why the strips are so funny and insightful.

In any Apple story, good or bad (and remember, no one is perfect) there is a cadre of posters, all over the web, whose attitude towards anything Apple or Steve Jobs is so filled with vitriol and a lack of proportion that while I'm not mystified at their Apple-Hating-postish-presence here, I am a bit puzzled why they think the author of Dilbert would take up their cause?

Steve Jobs is the antithesis of the boneheads that Dilbert works with. He IS Dilbert in many ways, working competently in an industry filled with products that must surely have been created by Dilbert's many incompetent co-workers. Jobs' Apple products are a lesson in great engineering, great design and intelligent and easy-to-use human interfaces.

Before the iPhone, Smartphones were obsidian blocks of electronic incomprehensibility. I've owned a few. The Treo for instance had such a huge and badly-written user manual that in order to set up email I had to chuck it and web-surf tip-pages for hours. Other functions were equally obscure. Sure, once set up it could be kinda cool, but user-friendly? No. PC-ish-ness is why the vast legions of bad and accented Tech Supporters exists.

Along comes the iPhone that sets up your email accounts, no matter the source, for you, along with just about every other function on the phone. There's a reason there are tons of YouTubes of 2-year-olds doing incredible things on iPhones and iPads. Try it, go to YouTube and type in "2-year old using Blackberry" and then change the last word to "iPhone" and check out the results.

My wife currently owns a company-ordained Blackberry 8830 and the only thing she knows how to do on it is email, texting and make phone calls. That's it. And her company tech support group had to set that up for her. She looks at my iPhone and just sighs.

This is who Jobs is; what he does. Dilbert's boss? I'm pretty sure he created the Microsoft Paperclip (and all the software around it).

The reason you're not likely to see Dilbert taking Jobs to task is because the cartoon isn't going to suddenly be re-named "The Pointy-Haired-Boss" and take up his cause.

BTW, it's always occurred to me, other than the foliage, how much the PHB resembles Ballmer in looks and substance, don't you think?

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