Why simple ideas win

Yonatan Levy
Jul 28, 2018 · 4 min read
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Simple ideas have always helped me to carve my way. Back in 2005 I new I wanted to launch a startup company, but had no idea what product we should build. I made a list of ideas, in a wide range of industries, from financial services and budget management, to e-commerce and marketplaces.

But as I looked at my long list, I faced an even bigger problem — how do I choose which idea to pursue? I needed a filter.

As far as I could tell, all the ideas on the list could become potential products. However, some seemed more complicated and harder to build than others. I realized that I’ve just found my filter: simplicity.

Filtering by simplicity

My co-founder and I divided the ideas according to these 3 criteria: ‘simple’, ‘complicated’, and ‘We don’t know’. Here’s the idea we found on top of our ‘simple’ list: to aggregate the articles that are getting the most comments online, in real time.

Commenting on articles and user- generated content had just begun to gain momentum. A slew of companies were emerging in this space, and I got excited about this opportunity.

Truth is I had never even commented on an article before. But I knew this idea might be simple enough, to enable us to power through the hardship of shipping an initial product. And we did, 3 months later we shipped.

Later on things got complicated as we needed to monetize our activity. By then we already had a team, investors and advisors, who helped us deal with the emerging complexities. Had we known these complex issues at the very beginning, we would have probably never even started. Eventually, we evolved to develop a B2B service that enabled businesses to get insights from the user generated content we collected.

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Learning faster

The reason I’m telling this story is to pass along a simple takeaway: simple ideas have better chances to drive your success, because they provide an opportunity to actually build something and try it out in the short term. Even if it ends up not working, your learning will fuel you up and increase your chances to succeed with your next idea.

Our chances for succeeding with one out of three simple ideas can be greater than giving one big shot at a complicated idea. But leaving statistics aside, the real problem is complicated ideas might be so intimidating that you might never even start.

If you’re part of an enterprise, complicated ideas are hard to pass through the necessary approvals and the bureaucratic processes. Breaking down your vision to smaller, simpler initiatives can make a huge impact altogether over time.

Small value on the ground is better that a huge vision on the cloud

This lesson stayed with me, and I’ve continued to use this approach over the years to launch more successful products, services, and features. Simplicity is a fantastic guideline, here’s why:

  1. Filtering: It helps you identify the ideas you can execute in the short term, and filter out the ideas you might never even start or get you worn out.

Don’t get me wrong, both complicated and simple ideas might encapsulate great products. But simple ideas provide an opportunity to learn faster and gain energy for the next things to come. Next time you come up with a huge complicated vision, try to break it down to the smallest units that can have a stand alone value and are easy to explain. That can be a good start.

[Yonatan Levy is a product leader, UX expert and speaker. Author of The Other Ideas, and blogs about innovation, product management and design.]

Yonatan Levy has spent more than a decade as a front-runner in the worlds of technology and start-ups. As an entrepreneur, UX expert, product manager, and executive, he has led teams in industries ranging from e-commerce and financial services to social networks and cyber security and has built products used by tens of thousands of people.

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