Dilbert’s Scott Adams: How Steve Jobs Successfully Managed iPhone4’s “Antenna-gate” Controversy

I’m often amused and surprised that some of the best business insights I’ve ever come across are from cartoonists (although, maybe I shouldn’t be!). In following the iPhone4 “Antenna-gate” controversy, I came across Dilbert’s Scott Adams positing a very interesting observation on how Steve Jobs successfully managed the controversy for Apple.

Basically, he applied what Adams called the “High Ground Maneuver“.

The High Ground Maneuver basically involves taking the argument up to a level where you can say something that is absolutely true while changing the context at the same time. Once the move has been executed, the other participants will fear appearing small-minded if they drag the argument back to the detail level. It’s an instant game changer.

So, in Apple’s case, Steve Jobs said, “We’re not perfect. Phones are not perfect. We all know that. But we want to make our users happy.” Apple’s response to the iPhone 4 problem didn’t follow the public relations playbook because Jobs decided to rewrite the playbook. In fact, Jobs changed the entire argument with nineteen words. He was brief. He spoke indisputable truth. And later in his press conference, he offered clear fixes.

Scott Adams offers a few more interesting analyses – one for the military and collateral damage, as well as another for the BP oil spill. You can Adams’ full blog post here.

Did it work? Well, apart from Apple’s sales figures on the iPhone4, you also have investment analysts declaring that “Antenna-gate” is officially over.

I’d love to hear what you think about how Steve managed this, especially from a PR perspective! See you in the comments!

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