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CEO Mindset — Strategy Masterclass with Steve Jobs (Apple) & Sandeep Goyal (Rediffusion)

The only thing standing between you and your success is your focus, willpower, and gameplay. So, what can you do to set yourself up for success?

The big game mentality theory by Dr. Sandeep Goyal depicts the difference between the winners and the runner-ups. It is a simple yet strategic mental model to separate big business tycoons from seasonal businessmen. 

Mr. Goyal described this mental model with a very simple analogy based on cricket. He said: “It’s like when a batsman goes up to the pitch and is surrounded by thousands of fans but is still able to focus on the ball and hit a sixer.” Cue Yuvraj Singh and the time he hit six sixes in a single game.

For most of us on the sidelines, we see the glam, the revenue, and the profit of the big businesses but often fail to see the struggles, the hurdles, the hard work, and the dedication in the bigger picture.

Similarly, entrepreneurs, starting on their journey, dream big but often overlook small or basic factors that can break or make their business. They shouldn’t forget punctuality, being transparent and honest, have a clear strategy, building the right culture, and having shared values and focusing on helping customers.

In a nutshell, the Big Game Mentality is all about focusing on your vision and not ignoring the small stuff. Little things matter and they go a long way in cementing how people perceive your business.

Takeaways from Steve Jobs’ Keynote

This conversation with Dr. Goyal reminded me of the keynote Steve Jobs made when he returned to Apple, where he talked about vision and focus. This keynote is an amazing masterclass in vision, focus, and strategy. I have to say, I am biased because I’m quite the Apple fanboy, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that there’s a lot of useful information there so I want to provide a few takeaways from that keynote.

Even though this talk is over two decades old, it boils down strategy to its most essential parts; the who, why, and what. At one point in the keynote, Mr. Jobs addresses the fact that Appel suffered from lousy engineering management.

In Jobs’ words: “People were going off in 18 different directions, doing arguably interesting things. Good engineers, lousy management. So, when you look at this farm with all the animals going in different directions, it doesn’t add up. The total is less than the sum of the parts.”

What Steve Jobs is saying here is that, as a company, you have to focus on the things that work and add value by identifying the fundamental direction you should go in. A company without focus is doomed. Focusing is not about saying yes, it’s about saying no to the things that you want to do but don’t make sense within your vision or strategy.

Steve Jobs also made a point about the importance of being different while remaining relevant to your audience. To drive this point across, he said: “I think it’s important that Apple is perceived as much better. If being different is essential to doing that, then we have to do that. But if we could be much better without being different, that’d be fine with me.

I want to be much better, I don’t care about being different.”

Jobs also swears by the top-down approach, where the strategy is clear in terms of what the vision is, and then you bring in the right people and build the right culture around that. If you do that, your company will be a success because it will be able to produce the right products. There’s a lot more we can discuss about Steve Jobs’ keynote, but for now, I want you to think about the following important points:

1. Focus and have a sharp vision

You might have interesting ideas boiling to skyrocket your business’s sales but with an ambiguous vision, you are headed nowhere. An important aspect of focus is to discard the ideas that don’t align with your business strategy. Businesses with a sharp vision are not apologetic about being different than others. Instead, they complete the market gap and attract audiences by pulling on their emotional strings — logical and illogical. 

2. Be different but relevant

A business with a truly unique vision has to be relevant if it wants to be competitive. You can’t develop an application without analyzing and understanding the market needs. 

That’s why it’s important to think of the following questions when developing a unique application: 

  • Does my audience need the product, service or application I am developing?
  • Will it fill the market gap?
  • Are there similar solutions in the market?

Steve Jobs says, ‘We are focusing our energy on the right products, the right marketing strategy, the right communication strategy, and the right distribution strategy.’ That’s a good example to follow!


Pro tip: Think like the CEO of the company

If you want to go from order taker to trusted creative advisor, always think like the CEO of the company that you’re working with. They are thinking about everything and not just visual design. Here are a few to start:

  • The product
  • The customer
  • The market 
  • The stakeholders
  • The media 
  • The competition
  • The company value
  • The company model
  • Perception and innovation
  • Operations and logistics

Thinking like the CEO of the client that you’re working with will allow you to have a completely different perspective and approach to delivering value. You also want to be curious and ask the right questions to learn about the business and industry. That is the secret to becoming the most amazing advisor.

Additionally, having a customer-centered approach will allow you to think from a different perspective. In fact, this can help you develop a four-dimensional perspective to build the greatest solution for your client. 


3. Handle criticism with wisdom 

Steve Jobs once said, ‘I don’t feel my job is to win a popularity contest right now’ when he was asked about handling criticism during an interview. Handling critical feedback with wisdom takes you one step closer to running a successful company. 

4. Attract the right audience

Focusing on what your company has to offer means you need to focus on attracting the right audience. The way you represent your business in the market should be a reflection of the audience that will buy your products and services. 

For instance, Steve Jobs once said, “Apple is still the dominant leader in education.” By saying that, he clearly stated that his company focuses on educators, creative thinkers, students, and the future generation. He knew exactly who he was catering his products to, and so should you!

5. Find meaningful partnerships 

Developing meaningful partnerships with dominant leaders in the industry will only open your business to more growth opportunities. Not every business in the industry is a competition, so you need to be smart about the stakeholders you choose to collaborate with inside the market. 

Summary 

As you can see, the big game mentality is all about the gameplay you put forward to grow your business. Entrepreneurs are often tempted to act against their business strategy. However, only those who stay laser-focused on their goals win the game. 

Instead of creating a complex plan, stick to the simple strategy of, ‘why’, ‘who’, what’, ‘when’ and ‘where’. That way, you will find the success you’re looking for. 

By Paul Syng

PSD is a multi-disciplinary design practice based in Toronto. The studio focuses on a problem-solving approach that can take any form or function.