In the world of consumer electronics, describing something as “revolutionary” and “magical" sounds like hype, marketing bluster. But those were the words Steve Jobs used to describe the iPhone in January 2007, six months before the device first went on sale.

What Steve knew then — and what we know now — is that the iPhone would have a transformative impact. He saw what others didn’t, and the market rewarded him for it.

Cupertino’s “wizard” had a knack for making boring products interesting. The iMac and iPod injected new life into two devices desperate for a reboot: the personal computer and the mp3 player.

Cellphones were in need of a similar makeover, but you don’t get to the allure of the iPhone without the lessons learned from designing and selling its forerunners.

With each product launch, Apple was taking notes, harnessing those lessons into a legendary corporate playbook that would eventually give rise to the world’s first $3 trillion company.

But let’s go back to that stage in San Francisco and Steve’s own words, which sound prescient in hindsight: “iPhone is a revolutionary and magical product that is literally five years ahead of any other mobile phone.”

Following its debut, every cellphone manufacturer was put on notice. Even if they publicly derided the iPhone, and some did, they knew Apple’s device was an industry disrupter. Behind the scenes, they were scrambling.

Apple had taken the lead by doing one thing really well: imagining a world where great industrial design, innovative technology and best-in-class software are seamlessly woven together to deliver a user experience that is second to none.

The iPhone kick-started a massive shift in how we connect, communicate and consume information. With the internet in our pockets, we started spending more time and money online. And the touchscreen became a portal through which we find love, make investments, create content, even hail a ride.

You have to wonder, what gave Apple the confidence to reinvent the phone and, in the process, spark a revolution?

For starters, they trusted their intuition. Steve and his team knew what people wanted before they knew it themselves. This depth of insight, coupled with the company's relentless pursuit of innovation, made Apple not only “think different” but act different.

More than sixteen years after the iPhone’s release, intuition continues to be a strategic advantage. In a world where everything seems to be a click or swipe away, it’s easy to think technology has all the answers. But there’s still no app for intuiting how your product or service will enhance, maybe even transform, the lives of your customers.

If you’re interested in developing better business intuition, I’d encourage you to start here:

  1. Pay attention to emerging trends and technologies that could potentially impact your industry.
  2. Make it your business to know what your customers want, need and value.
  3. Ensure that your product or service is designed to deliver a solution tailored to users’ needs and preferences.
  4. Recruit and retain employees and advisors who appreciate the role intuition plays in decision-making.
  5. Develop an adaptive business mindset that allows you to pivot in response to what the market or your own gut is telling you.

If the iPhone has shown us anything, it’s shown us that intuition, plus the courage to act, leads to innovation. There has to be someone willing to take a risk, even a calculated one. Steve Jobs believed that a touchscreen, not a keyboard, was the future of the phone, and that insight changed everything.

In every industry, there are innovations waiting to emerge. The question is, will you be able to capitalize on them when they occur to you? 

Tom Ward
Tom Ward Communications Consultant

Tom has twenty-five years’ experience helping organizations reach their goals through strategic planning, fundraising, marketing, and communications.