I’ve always been a big fan of Apple, even before I ever owned an actual product from them. I admired Steve Jobs and was shocked and sad when he died. I read many books about him, like the “iCon”, “iWoz” (about Steve Wozniak and his relationship with Jobs)… and of course the official biography that came out after Steve’s death. As Steve inspired not only me but also many more folks, the new books by people who knew Steve personally started popping up and I read iLeadership and now the newest one: Insanely Simple and I must say I loved it.
Simplicity is an all-or-nothing proposition
This is the main clue I took from this book. You can’t just “add simplicity” as a feature to what you do, you can’t just slap it on and believe it’ll solve your problems. You should make simplicity your guiding light in everything that you do - in all the systems in your company, in how it operates, how it makes decisions, how it designs products and how it focuses on the customer above everything else.
- Steve preferred to over-simplify the Apple web site for the customers rather than using some strange, custom URLs and complicated navigation that would maybe give him more information on the user behavior but would ruin the usability of the site. Just compare the URL to the iPad: apple.com/ipad to the one of the Galaxy Tab: samsung.com/global/microsite/galaxytab
- Steve preferred to have ad decisions made by a small group of smart people rather than a committee. He would throw somebody out of a meeting if he believed they were not necessary. Just compare to the more the merrier approach taken by most corporations.
- Steve would prefer to tell you in your face that something “sucked” rather than complicating your relationship and thinking how to say it in a polite way and not to hurt your feelings. Being straightforward was a part of his simplicity DNA.
Ken Segall, the author of this book invented the “iMac” name and stood by it although Steve wanted “MacMan” (even Steve was wrong at times) and he was the co-author of the “Think Different” campaign. He worked with Dell, Microsoft, Intel and others so he knows how they compare to Apple. And while these other companies wanted Apple’s simplicity, they couldn’t accept it “all the way” and that is what’s required to make it work.
How to achieve “insane simplicity”? Here are the 10 concepts from the book:
1. Think “Brutal”
No need to be mean, just avoid partial truths when you interact with people. They’ll be more focused and more productive when they don’t have to guess what you’re thinking. Make the honesty the basis of your communication.
2. Think “Small”
“Small groups of smart people” is where it’s at. They deliver better results, proficiency and improved morale. It’s also key to include the regular participation final decision-maker, rather than have him signed off the product at the very end (which is a recipe for frustration and mediocrity).
3. Think “Minimal”
If you’re trying to communicate more than one thing you’re splintering the attention of those you are talking to. If you really need to deliver multiple messages, find a common theme to unite them all. You want people to remember what you say and the more you cram into your communication, the less they’ll remember. Remember: “Sea of choices is no choice at all”. Minimal is attractive.
4. Think “Motion”
The right timing for a project is as important as the right people so always be wary of the “comfortable timeline”. The pressure keeps things moving ahead with purpose. Too much time on the schedule just invites more opinions and complexity. Keep things in motion at all times.
Don’t fall in love with the process but with the idea and the outcome instead. Too often companies focus on the processes all too much.
5. Think “Iconic”
Leverage an image to symbolize your idea - a strong and simple icon that captures its essence. Never forget the power of an image to galvanize your audience. There is a difference between finding a great image and “decorating” a PowerPoint presentation. There is too much decorating in the world already and for the most part it’s meaningless. Memorable images often communicate more effectively than words and help people identify with your idea.
6. Think “Phrasal”
Words are powerful, but more words are not “more powerful” - they can be just confusing. Dissertations don’t necessarily prove smarts. They tend to drive people away. Intelligent words don’t make you appear smarter. The key is to express an idea simply and with perfect clarity. Communicate using simple sentences and simple words. Say a great deal by saying little.
This is especially true to product naming. Simple names people can relate to give enormous returns.
7. Think “Casual”
Operating like a smaller, less hierarchical company makes everyone more productive and makes it more likely that you’ll become a bigger business later. At least internally, forget choreographed meetings and formalized presentations - you’ll get more done when you converse with people rather than present. Think big, but don’t act that way.
8. Think “Human”
Look beyond facts and spreadsheets and listen to your heart. Intangibles are every bit as real as the metrics. The simplest way to connect with human beings is to speak with a human voice. Even if you market to specific target groups, don’t forget every target is a human being. And human beings respond to simplicity.
9. Think “Sceptic”
Often the negative forces of complexity will inevitably tell you something can’t be done when it just requires extra effort. Don’t allow discouragement of others compromise on your ideas. Push. Steve Jobs was relentless to push forward. If someone can’t provide you with one thing, find another person or company that will. Sometimes a short term cost is worth it for the sake of long-term benefits (see iPhone’s trademark not being secured before the iPhone announcement). Rely on the common sense even if it’s contrary to an expert’s opinion.
10. Think “War”
When your ideas are facing life-and-death, don’t be afraid to fight with all the means necessary. Grab the unfair advantage if you must. Your most effective weapon will always be the passion you feel for your idea.
Introduce “Simplicity” step-by-step. Just hit the problems with “the simple stick”
First, ready this book. Second, in your everyday life be more aware of what’s happening in your company when you’re building new versions of your products, new products, new services, hiring new people, going new directions. KISS. Keep It Simple, Stupid! I know I will. At least I’ll try.
How do you intend to simplify your life and business?
To inspire you, here’s the original “Think Different” campaign by Apple with Steve Jobs’ narration:
P.S. Here’s another review of this book which is also worth reading if you’re still not convinced :-)