The "Think Different" Researcher

Taking some research inspiration from Steve Jobs.

♾ phil
Table of Contents

The Think Different campaign by Apple in 1997 is now a cult favorite. Never has this video failed to inspire me, even as a person who despises motivational porn.

I have been thinking about the kind of researcher I want to become. And something from Jobs’ approach to marketing has struck a nerve with me.

I’m quoting1 some of the parts relevant to a researcher, especially to the aspects pertaining to communicating science.

…this is a very complicated world, it’s a very noisy world and we’re not going to get a chance to get people to remember much about us, no company is and so we have to be really clear on what we want them to know about us. … even a great > brand needs investments and caring if it’s going to retain its relevance and vitality. … one of the greatest jobs of marketing in the, if the universe has ever seen, is Nike. Remember, Nike sells a commodity, they sell shoes, and yet when you think of Nike you feel something different than a shoe company and their ads as you know they don’t ever talk about the product they don’t ever tell you about their soles and why they’re better than Reebok. …they honor great athletes and they honor great athletics that’s who they are that’s what they are about … the theme of the campaign is Think Different, it’s the people honoring the people who think different and who move this world forward.

Much of a researcher’s life is about positioning oneself in a vast sea of people and ideas. The world is messy. A chance to make a mark is astronomically low. Everyone is competing for attention; everyone is competing for relevance. Doing science is getting harder.

The key question is then this -

what investments will you make to retain relevance and vitality?.

Perhaps, the only way to answer this question is to find what is meaningful to oneself - a set of core values that define happiness and success in research, exclusive to me.

This is a deep question, something that will require a thought far longer than the half-hour I spent drafting this post. The idea seed has been sown, and I will let the thought simmer.


  1. See Steve Jobs describing the campaign here.