“Stop trying to be everything to everyone. Just be the best thing to those who matter.” – Futurist Jim Carroll
It’s pretty clear that I’m in my AI-generated art obsession phase. That’s me way down in the middle of a futuristic stage!
MidJourney Prompt: “A large conference hall full of people. in the distance on a stage, a speaker can be seen staring outwards towards the audience, the room is bright, expansive, and airy. photorealistic and depth. –ar 16:9 –s 750
No one likes a trailblazer. Except, perhaps, other trailblazers.
Did you catch Apple’s Mother Nature video, which was tucked away in the middle of its new iPhone broadcast the other day? It was an attempt by the organization to lay out, in a new and different way, its success – or lack thereof – in meeting its sustainability objectives. As an organization that actually chases sustainability rather than chasing lip service, it sought to try to tell its story in a unique and different fashion. After all, in this world of collapsed attention spans and shock journalism, it’s pretty likely that few people would actually read a long report about sustainability – so why not try something different?
The result? People either loved it – or loathed it.
First, a bit of background. One report summarizes the storyline this way:
The video starts with Apple’s “employees” looking jittery and nervous as they prepare for Mother Nature‘s visit. All of them including Tim Cook are calming their nerves and some also rehearse their lines.
The next second everything stops shaking and Octavia who portrays Mother Nature says “I hope we didn’t keep you waiting.” On a hilarious note, Tim asks Mother Nature “How was the weather getting in?” as if she doesn’t control the weather itself. “The weather was however I wanted it to be,” she funnily says.
Mother Nature very strictly then begins asking questions about Apple’s progress toward bringing down its carbon footprint. She takes a dig at Tim who promised to bring down Apple’s entire carbon footprint to zero by 2030. The Apple employees then begin sharing the progress the company has made one by one.
The clip is a marvel of production, with Apple casting a well-known actress to star in the ‘performance,’ signaling a new step forward in how a corporate organization might tell an important story.
Over on LinkedIn, the branding and creative communities seem positively effusive about the 5-minute segment – professionally produced, with an effective storyline, and a clear message.
Some of the posts note the goal of Apple: “transforming an otherwise boring sustainability report into a storytelling masterpiece.”
Yet, elsewhere, Apple was widely condemned, with phrases such as ‘cringeworthy‘ and ‘dud‘ being tossed around.
Whatever the case may be, people ARE talking about Apple and its sustainability efforts, which to me, makes it a home run.
But the reaction online also goes to show that while you can please some of the people some of the time, you will never please ALL of the people at any time. To me, the whole thing is a wonderful story of innovation and risk – Apple is breaking new ground here and is trying something different. In the face of a reality in which few people are willing to pay attention to anything, they decided it was important to try something. That’s an important lesson right there.
But the other lesson that comes with this is equally powerful – any attempt to try and carve out a new and different path is bound to be met with both bouquets and brickbats, praise and criticism, love and hate. That’s certainly what I and other speakers encounter each and every moment we dare to step on a stage or share our insight in a public forum. There are those who might love our message and find their lives touched and changed by how we try to inspire them; there are others who hate our insight and despise our inspiration. I long ago learned to build my efforts are the former, and ignore the latter. The sad thing is that in our social media world of anger and hostility, the voices of the latter have become louder.
I suspect what Apple was really trying to do here was reach the community of people who actually take an interest in and care about their sustainability efforts – and at the same time, are trying to reach beyond that community to gain the interest of perhaps a few more. As they say, “Watch this space” – Apple has set a new path forward in how an organization might tell an important story. The future of annual reporting will never be the same.
The lesson for you? Always try to do what Apple did – try new ideas, knowing full well that your first effort will have you bathing in both love and hate, simply because you are trying something new. Because as soon as you stop learning to try to do new things and break new ground, you are no longer moving forward. And moving forward – constantly innovating – is what matters.