Book Review: Simple: Conquering the Crisis of Complexity


Simple: Conquering the Crisis of Complexity
By: Alan Siegel and Irene Etzkorn

“ Conquering the crisis of complexity “ is this book’s headline.
It’s an interesting, relevant, accurate and timely publication.

Some 200-pages long, it’s easy and quick to read with some clear and simple messages. The use of practical, real life, and well known global examples demonstrates this is no theoretical tomb and makes it easy to recognise plenty of examples in the daily life and world of the reader.

From either a business, or a consumer’s point of view, it’s clear the absolute complexity waste which exists could be eliminated, with increased consumer value and increased supplier profits too.
Simplify eliminates waste and lean adds recognised customer value !

Complexity generally gains short term power and control – simplicity not so. Much complexity comes from misunderstood branding ‘ stuff ‘ and short term money grabbing tactics. Companies that simplify their products, services and communications are able to improve their long term relationships with customers. Consumers are often prepared to pay a simplicity premium and simplification provides significant business benefits in the form of : cost savings, better client retention, enhanced employee efficiency and competitive advantage for first movers.

We live in an increasingly complex world which is costing individuals and businesses huge sums of money.

As there has been a discernible and measureable shift to complexity, it’s an opportune time for ‘back to basics ‘ as a distinct business model.
The 3-core principles of simplicity, which can revolutionise a business, are : empathise; distil; clarify.

Empathise includes :

• Customer experience
• Remove the barriers – shorten the distance
• See reality of needs – in context
• Understand your audience
• Get to the unheralded touchpoints – build core trust
• Be easy to do business with – human contact
• Simplicity is the takeaway experience
• Consumer confidence comes through comprehension, from simplicity

Distill includes :

• Edit stuff out – brevity and clarity
• Let customers decide how much they want
• Innovation includes simplicity – and taking away
• Resist the constant temptation to add on and complicate
• Let customers choose – at a glance; preferred; in depth options

Clarify includes :

• Apply design to information – anticipate need
• Visual clarity; key themes; chunking up
• Paradox of simplicity – the less you know the more you understand
• Power of visualisation
• Avoid language used intentionally to confuse, conceal, muddle and obfuscate

There are business incentives for simple…
• Distinctive added value to service or product
• Customers are more satisfied and better informed
• Leads to higher levels of trust and greater brand loyalty
• Cognitive fluency = feel good = acceptance and trust

Creating too much brand desire is often costly.

“ At the point of desire you want more but at the point of daily use you want less “. The cost of returned products in the USA is $100 billion a year!
Many well known successful companies have found their own distinctive and authentic brand voice. These are transparent, direct, straightforward and human. People want straight talk.

Like any authentic culture, simplicity requires clarity of purpose and commitment from the very top. With continuous efforts to empathise, distil and clarify. Ceaseless efforts on ease of use and simplicity of design are required. Customer intimacy becomes number one priority, co-creating with customers and integrating that creativity lies at the core of simplicity.
Keeping complexity out of sight of customers needs broad and sweeping change and is a continuous journey.

The outstanding better performing business will manage out complexity for customers, suppliers and partners. Customers experience economy through one seamless experience. Alignment is paramount as complexity thrives in silos. Open cultures which value naivety are best.
In particular, legalese fosters complexity and inherent aversion to simplicity, but there are striking examples of successful and simple legal documents and statements.
The well know acronym of SNAFU is quoted as an indication of the prevalence of much institutionalised complexity evident today. We are drowning in complexity ! Which affects B2B, B2C and social everyday life.

The final question is asked “ So where do we go from here ? “
And the answer is “ Back to basics “ for comprehension and control. A competitive differentiator and true point of difference for early adopters, for many years to come.

This book shows you how.

A small investment in reading it will either confirm you’re on the right future track or offer a better one.

Reviewed by: Maurice Summerson

Posted on July 17, 2014 in TiE UK North News

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