5 Things President Obama Can Learn From Steve Jobs

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President Obama met with Steve Jobs yesterday to get some advice about economic competitiveness and education. I'm not sure what they really talked about, but here are five things the president could learn from the Apple honcho.

It's All About the Marketing

Steve Jobs
Photograph: Courtesy of Apple
Apple makes beautifully designed products, but that's only a starting point for why it's become such a success. Its real genius is in marketing. Apple has accomplished what few corporations have ever done -- it's successfully tied its products to people's sense of value and self-worth. Many people will buy whatever product Apple sells because it validates their sense of themselves.

President Obama accomplished something similar during his run to the White House, especially during the primaries -- there were plenty of people who felt a certain way about themselves because they worked on the Obama campaign or were Obama supporters. That has long since waned, though. Obama can learn from Jobs how to make that kind of marketing last for the long term.

Just Call it iGovernment

What's in a name? Plenty. By slapping the lower case "i" in front of a product, Apple has managed to lend its mystique to whatever it sells. If it sold iUnderwear, that would soon become a big seller.

President Obama should have asked Jobs if he could borrow that magic "i" for a while. Who knows, if you call the federal government iGovernment, people may suddenly start feeling good about the work done by their tax dollars.

Forget the Facts

Steve Jobs is not one to let the facts get in the way of a good story. His rant the other day about Android during the Apple earnings call was rife with errors, but that didn't stop him. It never does.

President Obama is more of stickler for facts than most politicians. If he wants his popularity to soar, he should borrow from the Steve Jobs playbook, and play loose and fast with them.

Build a Reality Distortion Field

Jobs' charisma, marketing acumen, and salesmanship combine to give him what many call a reality distortion field, the ability to convince anyone of anything at any time for any reason, no matter how off-base it may be.

President Obama should have asked Jobs to borrow that reality distortion field, at least for a while. After all, building one is the ultimate goal of any politician. At the moment the president is in dire need of it.

Make Government a Great-Looking Product

No matter what you think about Steve Jobs, one thing is undeniable --- he makes great products. Apple's products are among the most elegant on earth,

Barack Obama
and time and time again Jobs has created products that people want just for the way they feel, look, and work.

President Obama needs to figure out how to do the same thing for government. Government delivers vital services to literally everyone in the United States, from social security to defense, Medicare, education, transportation, and far, far more.

Despite that, government has gotten a bad rap. It needs a redesign. How about a new cabinet post, Secretary of Design, and appointing Steve Jobs the design honcho? First rule: Government employees need to throw away their jackets and ties or female power suits and don black turtlenecks. As Jobs has shown, the little touches go a long way.

This story, "5 Things President Obama Can Learn From Steve Jobs" was originally published by Computerworld.

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