The world we live in today is more complex than ever before. The radical changes and advancements in today's society are quickly changing how people work and live. In order to efficiently guide people through a change, organizations and groups often elect a Change Agent. A change agent is someone who alters human capability or organizational systems to achieve a higher degree of self-actualization or output. In reality, a change agent is anyone who is passionate about a particular type of change and actively participates in the change in order to meet a set of objectives. This is no easy task because people inherently do not like change and will resist it, especially if they do not see any personal benefit. An interesting group of people that act as change agents are public figures and celebrities. This is the first in a series of installments on how public figures and celebrities initiate change, lead change and support change, all of which are critical change agent roles.

Steve Jobs: Co-Founder, Former CEO Apple Inc.

1) Initiate the Change: In order to initiate any type of change, the change agent must define some critical information for a successful launch:

  • Identify the specific change initiative and communicate the initiative with the change followers.
  • Set goals in order to develop an action plan because a change initiative with undefined goals is just an idea.
  • Show the change followers their "Return on investment" by participating in this change.

I believe a public figure who seamlessly implemented these steps for a change initiative was Steve Jobs. He brought Apple out of near bankruptcy in the late 1990s through radical culture and product changes that would eventually lead Apple to monumental success. Jobs understood that Apple needed to change quickly before it was too late and he did just that. Jobs implemented changes to the company culture, while simultaneously rebranding the company to the market through the introduction of innovative products. He then changed the mindsets of millions of customers through strategic presentations that made the customer believe they Apple's products.

2) Lead the Change:Through Steve Jobs's leadership, Apple produced breakthrough products that rivaled competitor's product lines while drastically changing modern technology. When Jobs returned to Apple in the late 90's, he quickly realized that Apple could not survive competing in a saturated PC market running on Windows. At this time, Apple was considered to be in the "Late Majority" category with respect to the Technology Adoption Lifecycle. Jobs was quite displeased being considered the "Late Majority" and wanted to make a shift to become an "Innovator". (For more Info on Late Majority/Innovator Click Here)

While Apple had created some innovative products in the past, they were expensive, gained little market share or were before their time. In order to make this leap from late majority to Innovator, Jobs made the critical decision to keep existing product lines open while dumping large chunks of capital into R&D. Jobs decision paid off as Apple would release products such as the iMac, iPod, iPhone and iPad. All of these products have something in common – Change. (If you are interested in hearing more about how these products changed the tech world Click Here )

It is highly unlikely that any of these products would have been created at Apple if Jobs had not been in charge.A quote from current Apple CEO Tim Cook praised Jobs ability and courage to change his mind. Good change agents possess this quality attribute because it displays how that individual has the power to change his or her mind when confronted with difficult decisions.

3) Support the Change: One of the major reasons behind why Apple was able to create such an innovative product line was the demand from Jobs to continuously innovate and improve. Jobs wasn't satisfied with just one or two products because he knew competitors would eventually release a similar product. Jobs demonstrated his desire to continuously change and innovate through his presentation and communication style. If you have ever watched one of Apple's Keynote speeches, you know exactly what I am talking about. Whenever Apple would release a product, Jobs would make his famous Keynote address discussing its features and how it would change the world. This support for Apples products created extraordinary growth and value by influencing buyer decision and gaining large investments from stockholders.

What are your thoughts on Steve Jobs as a change agent?

Next Up: The Accomplishments of Public Figures and Celebrities as Change Agents Part 2 : Scott Fujita