If Apple’s success with simplicity is so obvious and financial results are equally obvious, why on earth other technology competitors aren’t simply copying Apple’s methods to achieve the same level of success?
The quick answer is that it’s not easy. Simplicity isn’t an on off switch yet it’s there for everyone to take advantage of. To champion simplicity, it takes courage to stand up for its principles and strong enough to resist the temptation of simplicity’s evil twin ‘complexity’.
Steve Jobs hard reset almost every time he meets with people.
Hard reset ensures that Jobs isn’t judging people just because a person came across as dumb yesterday, he will see that person as dumb today. Hard reset means judging every situation in its own merits
Steve Jobs leverages the law of small.
The law of small fueled Apple to become the most profitable company on the planet. Jobs heavily bet on small groups of smart heads to take on his largest ambitions. Here the author adds the quality of the projects he managed is inversely proportional to the number of people working on the project. The more people you put in the room, the lower your chances of you getting anything good out of it.
The law of small isn’t merely about ‘crowd control’.
In fact, the law of small works only when one critical person is involved. The quality of the project is in direct proportion to the degree of involvement from the direct decision-maker. That decision-maker doesn’t necessarily need to be CEO. It could be any manager who’s in charge of the project.
It’s frustrating for any employee to work on the project for weeks or months before getting feedback on their direction from the responsible authority. The law of small and the law of decision maker addresses this issue.
Jobs has instilled a culture of ‘ideas’, not processes.
When process is king, ideas will never be. The more layer of work you add to the process, the more watered down the final work will become.
Not every company trusts small groups of smart people.
While Apple puts his marketing faith on small groups of smart people, Intel went big involving people and processes around the world. Ironically, its quest for efficiency made its marketing process inefficient. It took far more time and far more money than Apple just to make sure their product is perfect. The problem with that approach is it didn’t work.
HP, Dell and other top-tier manufacturers make many laptops because their customers demand choice.
Apple’s model is entirely different, only focusing on ultra-thin ultra-light vs full-featured, while allowing customers to customize to their taste. In fact, customers rarely leave Apple’s showroom or website, feeling deprived of choices. They instead feel that Apple’s products are presented in a way that makes their purchase simple.
Steve Jobs is willing to change his ‘strong’ opinions, when confronted with heart-felt opinions presented with passion.
Steve was unrelenting to give his great product a great name that he eventually gave up his own favorite name ‘MacMan’ for ‘iMac’. He appreciated the power of single letter and the little letter ‘i’ has since been inseparable with Apple brand.
The ‘i’ identifies Apple consumers devices.
It is always descriptive to the product and the product category. Everyone has no problem identifying Apple and its major product lines. Few companies managed to achieve that kind of branding power in their product names. Over at Dell, product names come from completely unrelated worlds (Inpsiron, Vostron, Optiplex, to name a few…). Everyone Dell adds a new name, it has to fight its way to the vocabulary of the consumers.
By creating a name that’s so revolutionary, Apple created a name that literally sells itself.
So why many product names are generic and mediocre?
Because it’s too complex to create a name. It’s hard enough getting multiple stakeholders to agree on the name, in most cases, it’s considered a great victory just to get a name through all those legal obstacles. It’s not uncommon for companies to settle for mediocre names either because the time is up or it’s all the stakeholders can approve. For Apple, this is never the case. It has to be perfect.
Apple ads were 100% focus group free.
Their ads are well thought-out, laser-focused and humorously appealing to massive groups of people. Like many companies, they are capable of filling a room with small groups of smart marketing people. Like few companies, Apple is willing to let final decision remain in that room.
Apple and Jobs went to great lengths to acquire the name ‘iPhone’.
The name ‘iPhone’ was trademarked by Cisco when Apple launched the iPhone. Jobs knew this and its legal complications but decided to use it anyway. He would shoot first and figure out later. Cisco began legal action immediately after the launch of iPhone. But then quickly reached an agreement with Apple on ‘undisclosed’ term.
Charles Giancarlo, a Cisco executive back then said “He didn’t offer us anything for it. It was just like a promise he’d be our best friend. And we said, ‘No, we’re planning on using it.’”
For Apple, even unboxing of its products accounts for a significant part of its customer experience.
To say that Apple takes its packaging seriously is an understatement. The team responsible for packaging and unboxing experience works in a locked down room in a head quarter. They do in every bit of secret as what engineers do in their inner sector. It makes sense because packaging reveals more about the product than any glimpse about the product itself.
Apple applied ‘think different’ and so the idea of Apple store is born.
Apple stores today are widely regarded as the most successful and the gold standard in retail industry, making more money per square foot than Tiffany. To walk down that path however wasn’t easy. Apple had zero experience in retail world and only about 3% of the computer market. It was by any means a risky venture. Apple went the first-class route, unlike many other stores did back in the days. They hired brilliant architects, designers, used only the highest-quality materials to bring its vision to life, even if it means transporting various materials from distant countries. And they did it with not only high-quality also high-consistency as they expanded their ground.
When you first start to solve the problems, it’s normal that you come up with ‘complex’ solutions.
The key is not to stop there. If you keep going, live with the problem and peel more layers of the onion off, you can oftentimes arrive at very elegant and simple solutions.
“Once Apple comes up with a solution, it’s more of a beginning than an end. It’s by peeling back those layers and complexity that Apple is able to create its magic.” – Steve Jobs
Don’t give up if you fail to achieve simplicity on the first try.
Try again and again and again… and again. Recover from your mistakes with each attempt and you’ll find yourself emerging stronger and stronger.
The mouse that didn’t roll.
One of the Apple’s best-known failures is the mouse that comes with original iMac. It was round and the problem with round is that you can’t tell which way its pointed. So, people often found their cursors moving around counterintuitively. The reason why Apple never figured this out before shipping it is a mystery. Some critics said Apple was obsessed with form over function.
Getting Started: Insanely Simple
- Think brutal (no need to be mean, just avoid partial truths).
- Think small (bet on small groups of smart people for higher efficiency, better results and improved morale).
- Think minimal (control your urge to communicate more than one thing, if you do so, find a common theme and push hard on that idea).
- Think motion (stop overthinking, the right timing isn’t just as important as the right people).
- Think iconic (whatever presentation you make, whatever product you sell, whatever people you convince, don’t underestimate the power of image, find the conceptual image that actually covers the essential of your idea).
- Think phrasal (words are powerful but more words are not more powerful, best way to make yourself look smart is to say a lot by saying little, less words and more clarity).
- Think casual (shun the complexities of big business, think like a smaller and less hierarchical group).
- Think human (bear in mind intangibles are every bit as important as metrics, speak with a human voice to connect humans).
- Think skeptic (expect pushback, seek facts, opinions, context and demand performance)
Think war (extreme times call for extreme measures, shoot first and figure out later when in crisis).