Anyone who’s ever tried to assemble a piece of furniture has probably experienced the frustration that comes with something that’s made to be as complicated as possible. Conversely, products and services that are simple and easy to use are usually the most valued on the market. Take the simplicity of Apple products. You don’t get a 100-page owner’s manual with an Apple product. You get a straightforward introduction and the rest is just intuitive because that’s how they build their products.
Sometimes we try to make things too complicated. Companies and organizations throw a bunch of people at a challenge and hope that one of them will find a solution. Instead, wouldn’t it be a better use of resources to handpick those who are best suited to take on the challenge? Or we take a project in too many directions and end up losing sight of it or diminish the one great idea that could have made all the difference. Or we take a product that could’ve been brilliant and make it difficult for a customer to use and understand, so it fails.
Keeping things simple doesn’t mean being any less creative or not working as hard on something. In fact, it can take more effort. Steve Jobs said, “Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”
Doing things simply is the opposite of how we’re taught to do things in school and in society. But we have a choice. Work down in the weeds where we’re trying to blindly find our way, or maintain altitude where we can see where we are and where we need to go.
One way to avoid the weeds is to start out with a clear strategy, direction and purpose. It’s difficult to set all the wheels in motion without them. And if one does manage to get the machine moving without those essential elements, it’s probably going to move in a lot of different directions that will go nowhere fast.
Taking a simple approach also extends to ideas. Some of the simplest ideas in the world have become household names. Look at Post-It Notes. It’s a product that the vast majority of us use on a regular basis. They were invented in 1974 and made $2 million after the first year. In 2012, they generated $1 billion and are sold in over 100 countries. All from a piece of paper that’s sticky on one side.
A manufacturer may ask, “How easy is it for customers to use my product?” Those in the service sector may ask, “How simple do I make it for customers to do business with me?” There’s a reason why companies who ask themselves these questions are tremendously successful. Studies have shown that increasing the simplicity of purchasing and using a product directly correlates to increased customer loyalty.
In a world full of complications, details and distractions, simple can be a breath of fresh air. It can differentiate a company or product from its competitors and win customers for life.