Vantage Blog


Simple: conquering the crisis of complexity:Book Review

I have found there are 3 types of people in the world.  Firstly there are those that thrive on complexity, making things seem more difficult or complex than they need be.  In part in may be that they thrive on detail, or want to show how smart they are - therefore building up their status by surrounding themselves with complexity.  May be a little harsh, but I bet you know people like that!

Secondly those who are fantastic at seemingly making the complex simple. Reducing challenges and opportunities to their essence. 
And the third group?  The rest of us!  In most cases wanting life/business/relationships to be simpler.  But battling to find a way through the complexity. I therefore read with eagerness “Simple – conquering the crisis of complexity” just published by Alan Siegel and Irene Etzkorn.

Siegel and Etzkorn come from a design background and mainly focus on communications but it is an interesting, quick read and prompts thoughts around how do you boil things down to their essence – the whole “less is more” thing.

I particularly liked their model on how to achieve simplicity for customers:
  • Empathise – perceive others needs and expectations
  • Clarify – make the offering easier to understand, use, and benefit
  • Distill - boil down and customise what’s being offered to meet needs
A lot of businesses provide customers with lots of choice – every variant and option they could dream up, thinking choice is what customers want.

If, however, they took a long hard look at what customers actually want/need, and apply the Pareto principle, they will no doubt find that 80% of the value will come from 20% of the features or product offering. 

Providing loads of choice is, in many cases, the easy way out – ‘we’ll leave it to the customer to work it out’.  In a world of exploding choice that just adds to the clutter.

Simple tells a number of stories of brands winning the complexity war.  Usual suspects such as Apple and Google, but others like Oxo and some US businesses that provide interesting case studies.

But it is short on practical advice on what to do – how to achieve simplicity in not just your communications and product design, but in your business strategy and model.

This is particularly challenging as simplicity does not mean simplistic.  
Complexity is a reality, and an expanding one at that! And importantly complexity gets in the way of effective implementation of strategy.  It is a barrier to engaging your staff and being able to ensure everyone is focussed on the same goals. To achieve simplicity (or to put it another way, clarity  of purpose) you need to understand in detail your market, your business model, its competitive advantage, needs of customers and of course future opportunities – in short your strategy and how to make it real. (See: Some practical tools to ‘conquer the crisis of complexity’ for my top 5 tools).

by James Atkins, Vantage Strategy & Marketing

This article is linked to James' Google+ profile

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