Three essential books to ‘Think Different’

April 19, 2023

Of all the things we’ve lost in the past few decades — video rental stores, our ability to focus, and the humble elegance of flip phones — the spirit of ‘think different’ might just be the most significant.

My ‘Think Different’ 101:

“Think Different” was an influential campaign by Apple (in the late 90s) that not only transformed the way the brand was perceived but also inspired a whole generation of creative professionals. It was during this time that Indian advertising began gaining international recognition, and coincidentally, I started my career in the very same industry in 2006.

On my first day at Leo Burnett, the iconic “Think Different” ad was the very first thing they showed us during our induction. It gave me goosebumps, and I found myself watching it again and again.

It was an exciting time to be part of advertising in India, with everyone striving to win a ‘lion’ and embracing the spirit of “thinking different.” I feel fortunate to have spent my formative years immersed in that vibrant atmosphere. After all, where else could one truly embody the “think different” mindset? Startups, perhaps, which became my next adventure — but that’s a story for another day.

‘Think Different’ in 2023

Today’s ‘Think Different’ isn’t quite the same as the ‘Think Different’ of the early 2000s, at least not for me. Over the years, Apple has emerged as one of the most valuable brands on Earth, but we seem to have lost the essence of its mantra.

I’ve personally journeyed through the evolution of ‘Think Different’ to out-of-the-box thinking, disruptive thinking, and design thinking. Unfortunately, the impact has faded. They’ve become synonymous with a less inspiring message: ‘think different, but safe’

Rediscovering Think Different

Reflecting on my past experiences in the creative industry, I can’t help but miss the inspiring atmosphere of the ad agencies where I worked and the subsequent startup job I had. The people I worked with were all dedicated to out-of-the-box thinking, as that was the key to success.

For creative inspiration, I continue to read books on branding, advertising, and marketing. I’ve read dozens of them and have identified a few that truly embody the essence of ‘think different.’ And that’s what this post is about 🙂

Although I no longer work in advertising, I feel that the ‘think different’ mindset is equally applicable to product management and UX design as well. By embracing the ‘think different’ mindset, product teams can deliver differentiated experiences that their users will love and be excited about, driving innovation forward.

3 Books for ‘Think Different’ Inspiration

  1. Alchemy: The Surprising Power of Ideas That Don’t Make Sense by Rory Sutherland
  2. Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd by Youngme Moon
  3. Blue Ocean Shift: Beyond Competing — Proven Steps to Inspire Confidence and Seize New Growth by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne

Let’s see what makes these books special:


Though this book is written by an ad-man, its learnings can be applied to any business or even life. If you have to read just one book on the topic, let this be the one.

One of my favorite takeaways from this book is the concept of “psycho-logic.” Sutherland introduces the idea that human behavior is often driven by psychological reasoning, rather than pure logic. By understanding and embracing these psychological quirks, we can find innovative solutions and create more effective products or campaigns.

“It is important to realize that people are not linear, logical beings. They are nonlinear, emotional beings that use logic to justify their decisions.”


In ‘Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd,’ author Youngme Moon, a renowned professor at Harvard Business School, shares her insights on achieving differentiation and standing out in today’s competitive markets.

My key learning from the book is that embracing a lopsided approach that highlights unique strengths is the key to true differentiation, instead of striving to be well-rounded in all aspects. This counterintuitive insight challenges conventional wisdom about brand and product development, and that’s ‘think different’ right there.

“The truth of the matter is, true differentiation — sustainable differentiation — is rarely a function of well-roundedness; it is typically a function of lopsidedness. The same can be said for excellence.”

Blue Ocean Shift:

“Blue Ocean Shift,” authored by the celebrated duo W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne, known for their groundbreaking book “Blue Ocean Strategy,” takes the concept of ‘blue ocean’ further to guide businesses in moving towards untapped markets.

This book offers valuable insights on “value innovation” and a five-step process for shifting from competitive markets to creating new demand. The authors emphasize overcoming fear of change and nurturing a growth mindset for success in these uncharted territories.

The concept of ‘value innovation’ and the five-step process for shifting from competitive markets to creating new demand were definitely highlights from the book. The authors not only emphasize the importance of overcoming fear of change and nurturing a growth mindset, but also introduce the ‘humanness’ aspect in the five-step process.

“Companies rarely fail for lack of answers. They fail for lack of imagination”

So, there you have it — my top three books for inspiring the ‘think different’ mindset. But the journey doesn’t end here. It’s up to us to keep the spirit alive and embrace the power of innovative thinking in our work and lives. From my experience, I can testify that it has wonderful side effects such as curiosity, growth mindset, and random career moves.

So, go ahead and read these books (even if you have already), and let me know in the comments if you have any other must-reads for the ‘think different’ mindset.

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