Maintaining simplicity is anything but simple. Doing so should be easy. It isn’t. Simplicity requires effort in the form of clarity, focus, tenacity, and intelligence. Alan Siegel and Irene Etzkorn explore the business side of simplicity in their aptly titled book, Simple.
Early in the book you faced with simple, brilliant honesty:
If every living creature can be identified with just seven classifications, why shouldn’t we be able to similarly distill anything?
It takes effort to create a simple system and maintain the simplicity. However, it’s almost miraculous to take an existing complex system and simplify it. We easily accept complexity because it already exists. However, the longer we allow complex systems the more prevalent and permanent they become.
When you encounter complexity (investments, legal terms, software systems), don’t assume you lack the intelligence to understand. Also don’t assume really smart people created these systems. Typically, with investments, complexity grows from analytical minds attempting to game the system. Complexity grows in the legal world to deal with the extreme cases of the law. And software complexity spreads from putting things into production too soon and from adding features to differentiate.
Too much information overwhelms people. Abundant features distract people. Complex pricing models leave consumers feeling ripped-off. Loyalty point systems with pages of rules and blackout days are frustrating.
If you were simply trying to make it from point A to point B, which of the following trails would you choose?
Simplicity makes life easier to navigate. If we don’t diligently work to maintain simplicity then complexity grows.
Siegel and Etzkorn provide Three Principles of Simplicity: Empathize, Distill, and Clarify. They fill the book with useful examples and provide ample resources at the end.
This is a book I should probably read on an annual basis to help me stay focused on simplicity. I am definitely guilty of letting software and the related business grow out of control. If you struggle with creating simple systems or need to move from complexity to simplicity…then read Simple.
Buy the book here.
TedTalk by Alan Siegel here.