Avatar or Logo

The Power of Simplicity

15 June 2022

This is a Manifesto extract from the book Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives    's Success. I hope this can inspire you to make Simplicity a ritual when thinking and building digital products.

Think Brutal.

No need to be mean, just brutally honest--and avoid the partial truths while you're at it. Ask those you interact with to do the same. People will be more focused, more positive, and more productive when they don't have to guess what you're thinking. Positive of negative, make honesty the basis of all interactions. You'll avoid wasting valuable time and energy later.

Think Small.

Swear allegiance to the concept of small group of smart people, Remember it well when new project groups are formed. This is a key component of Simplicity, and you must become its champion. Small groups of smart people deliver better results, higher efficiency and improved morale. Also, look suspiciously at any project plan that doesn't include the regular participation of the final decision maker. Is critical. Having the decision maker appear at the very end of the process to say yea or nay is a recipe for frustration and mediocrity.

Think Minimal.

Be mindful of the fact that every time you attempt to communicate more than one thing, you're splintering the attention of those you're talking to_-whether they're customers or colleagues. If it's necessary to deliver multiple messages, find a common theme that unites them all and push hard on that idea. You want people to remember what you say — and the more you cram into your communication, the more difficult you make it for them. Remember that a sea of choices is no choice at all. The more you can minimise your proposition, the more attractive it will be.

Think Motion.

The perfect project timeline is only slightly less elusive than the Holy Grail. It takes some effort to figure it out, but once you do, you'll have created a template that promotes success. You may not be the person tasked with creating timelines, but you can try to influence those who are. This is the kind of thing that most people just accept, but they shouldn't. The right timing is as important as the right people. Always be wary of the "comfortable" timeline input a fact of life chat a degree of pressure keeps things moving ahead with purpose. With too much time in the schedule, you're just inviting more opinions, and more opportunities to have your ideas nibbled to death. Keep things in motion at all times.

Think iconic.

Even if you're not in the marketing biz, it will serve you well to crystallise your thinking by leveraging an image that one symbolise your idea, or the spirit of it. And if you are in the marketing business, you're simply required by law to think this way. Whatever presentations you make, whatever products you sell, whomever you're trying to convince--never forget the power of an image to galvanise your audience. Note that there's a big difference between finding a great image and decorating a PowerPoint presentation. There's too much decorating in the world already, and for the most part it's meaningless. Find a conceptual image that actually captures the essence of your idea. Be simple and be strong. The same principle applies whether you're talking to colleagues or to the public. Over time, a conceptual image gives people an easy way to identify your company, your idea or your product. Memorable images often communicate more effectively than words — which is why those who value Simplicity tend to rely on them.

Think Phrasal.

This is an area where just about every business needs more work. Words are powerful, but more words are not more powerful — they're often just confusing. Understand that in your company's internal business and in communications with your customers, dissertations don't necessarily prove smarts. In fact, they tend to drive people away. Though many writers never seem to grasp the point, using intelligent words does not necessarily make you appear smarter. The best way to make yourself or your company look smart is to express an idea simply and with perfect clarity. No matter who your audience is, it's more effective to communicate as people do naturally. In simple sentences. Using simple words. Simplicity is its own form of cleverness saying a great deal by saying little. Apple's website is a primer for intelligence in communications. There is a cleverness in writing that runs throughout, but much of the feeling of Apple's "smarts" comes from its brevity and straightforwardness. In a world where too many people are trying too hard, Simplicity can be extremely refreshing. The same can be said for product naming. Simple and natural names stick with people, while jargon and model numbers do not I you wish people to form a relationship with your product, it needs name people can naturally associate with. Product naming is one area in which Simplicity pays immediate returns.

Think Casual.

Do what Steve Jobs did: Shun the trappings of big business. Operating like a smaller, less hierarchical company makes everyone more productive- and makes it more likely that you'll become a bigger business. Choreographed meetings and formalised presentations may transfer information from person to person, but they neither inspire nor bring a team closer together. Embrace the fact that you'll get more accomplished when you converse with people rather than present to them. You'll still have plenty of opportunities to dress up and do things the old-fashioned way. But internally, and on a day-to-day basis with your clients — don't be formal. Many great creative ideas are actually born in these types of briefings, when key words or phrases emerge in conversation. Some of the agency's most compelling words for Apple were generated this way. If you want to reap the benefits of Simplicity, think big — but don't act that way. As Steve Jobs proved, one of the most effective ways to become a big business is to maintain the culture of a small business.

Think Human.

Unless you're in the business of sterilising things, business is no place to be sterile. Have the boldness to look beyond numbers and spreadsheets and allow your heart to have a say in the matter. Bear in mind that the intangibles are every bit as real as the metrics oftentimes even more important. The simplest way — and most effective way — to connect with human beings is to speak with a human voice. It may be necessary in your business to market to specific target groups, but bear in mind that every target is a human being, and human beings respond to Simplicity.

Think Skeptic.

Expect the first reaction of others to be negative. The forces of Complexity will inevitably tell you that something can't be done, even if the truth is that your request simply requires extra effort. You'll probably achieve better results if you believe more in the talent of people to work miracles than in those who are quick to provide negative answers. Don't allow the discouragement of others to force compromise upon your ideas. Push. If you can't get satisfaction with one person or vendor, move to another. If there was one area in which Steve Jobs had a well-deserved reputation for being impossible, this was it. He was relentless about executing ideas and demanding that people perform. Take pride in your independence and objectivity too. See facts and opinions in context. Definitely consider the expertise of those who provide counsel, but evaluate those opinions against things that may be beyond the expert's vision--like your long-term goals. Steve Jobs knew that the short-term cost, even if it's large, is often outweighed by the future benefit. Real leaders have the ability to grasp the context and decide accordingly. Simplicity isn't afraid to act on Common Sense, even when it runs counter to an expert's opinion.

Think War.

Extreme times call for extreme measures. When your ideas are facing life or death, that's an extreme time. Like a soldier in batt,e. you can't afford to suffer even a single hit--so make sure you hit first. Pull out all the stops. Remember, when your ideas life is on the line, the last thing you want is a fair fight. Use every available weapon. Impossible, grab che unfair advantage. And never forget what might well be your most effective weapon: che passion you fuel for your idea.


how you do anything is how you do everything