Did you know that Uber in San Francisco is now ten times bigger than the existing cab-for-hire market?  How did that happen?

Did you know that Google was a late comer to the internet search market and early in its history was only rated as the tenth-best choice? Did you know that it now ten times larger than all ten of its competitors combined, with many of them now gone?

What do these companies have in common? They use “Simplified Innovation.”

These companies did not invent their market. They weren’t the second or third or tenth company in the space. They innovated, and at the same time kept their business processes simple. Of all the tens of thousands of cab drivers, dispatchers and owners out there, none came up with the ride-sharing concept that Uber created. It’s very simple — every existing car and every existing driver is now a potential partner transporting people. The innovation is the simple phone interface that anyone can use in two minutes. It was obvious that this would work, but it could have gone poorly if they had let complexity creep into the process.

Google was often mocked in their early years for the simple white page and one-line text-entry space. Many within Google wanted to make the white space available, but the owners resisted and made it a priority to keep this simple view. Google focused on all the background work and kept the consumer interface very basic — and you know the rest of the story.

The success of these companies, along with Apple, has lessons for our industry. We do build a simple product of framing surrounding panes of glass, but most have allowed extreme complexity to blur the consumer interface. How can we use the wisdom of simplification to improve? Some ideas:

  • Start by researching the examples in Richard Koch and Greg Lockwood’s book Simplify: How the Best Businesses in the World Succeed;
  • Examine your product features and the benefits of these features. Ask hard questions about how to deliver the benefits without the features;
  • Understand that the product sale is about the experience. Examine at length how the consumer experience can be very simple and focused. Then review it again to gain more focus;
  • Consider how your quality is affected by complexity of the design or the complexity of the build process. Use that understanding to drive change and innovation towards simplicity, and;
  • Realize the work of simplification is difficult. The more mature your business is, the more rules have been implemented to fix all the problems. This thinking is natural, but eventually there are so many rules to “make sure that never happens again” that we are very complex. Plan on the time needed to simplify.

As Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson said: “Complexity is your enemy. Any fool can make things complex; it is hard to keep things simple.”

Keep Innovating!

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