“Simple” an obsession that moves mountains

Recently reread the book “Insanely Simple — The obsession that drives Apple’s Success by Ken Segall”. A book that has been my guiding force in making many decisions specially in building products and businesses. Here are some nuggets in case you find them as insightful as I do…

Simple

“Simple is harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clear to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end, because once you get there, you can move mountains.” — Steve Jobs
  1. When in doubt, MINIMIZE: Steve looked at everything with the idea of cutting it down to its essence, whether it be a new product or a new ad. Steve’s strategy after he came back as the CEO of Apple in 1997 (after 3 failed CEOs), to lead a doomed company with numerous products that lacked differentiation and were inefficient to produce: focus on 4 brilliantly simple solutions for differentiated customer needs — Laptop and desktop for consumer and pros. Apple offered distinct models with obvious differentiation (Ultra-thin vs Full featured) and then allowed customers to customize it to their own taste. Later he decided on an even simpler single message for all customers stating that they all customers were looking for a great computer, not a great home computer or a great business computer. People buy Apple products because they are innovative and simple, but they’re propelled toward a purchase because the shopping experience is innovative and simple. Customizing is simple. Buying is simple. Using is simple. For Apple, reinforcing its brand is simple. Simplicity attracts.
  2. Minimizing is about being both smart and CLEAR. Clarity Propels an organization. Not occasional but pervasive, 24/7, in your face. Unfortunately, the desire to minimize does not come hand-in-hand with intelligence. Some of the most brilliant people on this planet can’t stop themselves from over complicating the way they do business. Many believe offering large choices is the way to do win customers. Reality is too many choices is a quick way to drive people to confusion. It takes strength to minimize but in end creates more effective companies, and leaders. Simplicity never happens by itself. It needs a champion… because becoming complex is easy while staying simple requires work.
  3. Think Simple, Think Different: Steve launched “Think Different” campaign when he rejoined Apple in 1997. Many companies facing extinction don’t normally incur high marketing cost. They do whatever it takes to keep itself alive. Steve made it clear though that Apple won’t be withdrawing into a shell at a time like this; instead take it’s last chance to get out there abs put it’s stake in the ground. Apple would invest in itself, and he did exactly that with “Think Different”. Even if companies choose to invest in marketing they prefer product ads when Steve started with a brand campaign to make an impact. Ads appeared only in most prominent places and never in places that would degrade the message. Magazine back covers (never inside), prime location bill boards near airports, sides of large building and the classic photo of John and Yoko in bed stared down upon passengers in NYC with just the simple words “Think Different”. Another stunning demonstration of power of simplicity is when product ads started rolling out with “Think Different”, they stopped the “Think Different” Hero ads they had used for brand building. It was all just one single campaign with every product sold contributing to the brand image!

Creative

People think Steve was a creative genius. He was in fact a genius who loved creativity.
  • He enabled small groups of smart people, good things would happen. Even if those results were not entirely predictable.
  • When it comes to design, Apple carefully calculates the messages that will be sent by every product, even those messages that are mostly subconscious. It considers every aspect of a product design

Honest

  • Respect everyone’s time: There is a huge difference in being brutally honest and simply being brutal. Going with second best puts you in a worst possible position to defend an idea you never believed in.
  • Effective and Efficient Decisions: Decisions makers should be part of the journey and the discussions at all levels…faster, efficient decision making.

Focus

“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things we have done. Innovation is saying no to a thousand things. — Steve

Mark Parker, president and CEO of Nike asked Steve if he had any advice for him. Steve suggested “Nike makes some of the best products in the world — products that you lust after, absolutely beautiful, stunning products. But you also make a lot of crap. Just get rid of the crappy stuff and focus on the good stuff.”

Think Big, keep everything else small: Fastest way to lose focus, kill valuable time and water down great ideas is to entrust them to a large group. Every company wants to maximize productivity and cut down meetings. But How they do it differs drastically…

  • Offer yourself & your team moments of reflection/ inspiration but not regulation (e.g: meetings should be no more than 30 minutes with no more than 6 people etc)
  • Your urge to be part of everything => your lack of confidence in your team. FIX IT. Hire right and learn to delegate. Let them run the show but be in touch with everything.

And so Steve continues to inspire….


Originally published at www.guptamanisha.com on November 19, 2016.