One Button: The Official Symbol of Simplicity

…a single iconic image can be the most powerful form of communication.

– Ken Segall, Insanely Simple

Ken Segall was the creative director at several ad agencies, working for big-name tech companies like IBM, Intel, and Dell. However, it was his work with Apple over a period of years that gives him a unique perspective of the stark contrast of Apple’s ways that made Segall appreciate the power of Simplicity.

The obsession with Simplicity is what separates Apple from other technology companies. Led by Steve Jobs’ uncompromising ways, you can see Simplicity in everything Apple does: the way it’s structured, the way it innovates, and the way it speaks to its customers.

Like this:

Or even this:

Apple branded itself using iconic images and two words that perfectly described the spirit of the company. Every Apple produce sold contributed to the brand image; every product became a manifestation of the brand.

There’s one more example:

One is the simplest number ever invented. It’s so simple, a child can understand it. The further you get away from one, the more complicated things get.

That’s why Steve Jobs insisted on iPhone having only one button, rejecting many models before arriving at the final version. You don’t even have to use an iPhone to get that it’s simple. In fact, one could say that the single button has become an icon of Apple’s devotion to Simplicity.

Simplicity requires little effort.

If Apple had it’s way, all of its products would feature a single button. Now that the iPhone has Siri, the voice-controlled assistant, you might want to prepare yourself for Apple products with zero buttons.

After all, zero is the only number that’s simpler than one.

I’ve really enjoyed reading Insanely Simple and its true insider’s perspective on Apple’s obsession with Simplicity. Ken Segall has really brought the concepts of Simplicity home.

As a leader, are you practicing Simplicity?

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Simplicity Never Stands Still

To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan, and not quite enough time.

– Leonard Bernstein

Former ad agency creative director Ken Segall’s new book Insanely Simple is written from a unique perspective: developing marketing campaigns for technology giants like IBM, Dell, Intel, – and Apple. It was the stark contrast of Apple’s ways that made Segall appreciate the power of Simplicity – and inspired him to help others benefit from it.

In the chapter entitled “Think Motion,” Segall refers to Apple’s practices of fast-tracking project and marketing development.  Apple has grown to point where it does a tremendous number of things at once, and in doing so has built one of the world’s greatest juggling acts. Apple:

  • lives in constant motion
  • never stops thrilling its audience
  • never lets things get old

The best illustration of this comes from an example of Segall’s work with both Dell and Apple on similar ventures – developing a new branding campaign.

Apple set out to create a brand campaign in 1997.

   Dell set out to create a brand campaign in 2008.

Apple wanted to start its campaign immediately.

   Dell pondered a schedule that would take months.

Apple’s brand team was led by its CEO.

   Dell’s brand team was led by a committee.

Apple trusted a small group of smart people.

   Dell trusted a small group of incompatible people.

Apple knew exactly who it was.

   Dell need to figure out who it was.

Steve Jobs was an active participant.

   Michael Dell would look in when the project was complete.

Apple’s brand team required only the CEO’s approval.

   Dell’s brand team required each division’s approval.

Apple took a month to conceive and create a campaign.

   Dell required a month just to talk about strategies.

Apple ended up with the Think Different campaign.

   Dell ended up with a stack of presentation boards stored neatly in a dark closet.

Simplicity – represented in the above example by Apple’s actions – is a fundamental requirement when you’re trying to achieve lofty goals. As Dell discovered, a fractured, leaderless group without an urgent mandate is Simplicity-proof.

Will you walk the straight path of Simplicity or choose the dark, winding road of Complexity?

Small is the Ultimate Efficiency

When process is king, ideas will never be. It takes only Common Sense to recognize that the more layers you add to a process, the more watered down the final work will become.

– Ken Segall, Insanely Simple

Ken Segall was the creative director at several ad agencies, working for big-name tech companies like IBM, Intel, and Dell. However, it was his work with Apple over a period of years that gives him a unique perspective of the stark contrast of Apple’s ways that made him appreciate the power of Simplicity. Segall recently released a book about these lessons – Insanely Simple. More than just another repetition of Apple lore, it chronicles an outsider’s long relationship with Apple and Steve Jobs that will provide leaders in any organization with the powerful tools of Simplicity.

Simplicity’s Best Friend: Small Groups of Smart People

While working with Apple, Segall often experienced the strict enforcement of one of Simplicity’s most important rules: Start with small groups of smart people – and keep them small. Every time the body count in a meeting or working on a project goes higher, you’re simply inviting Complexity to take a seat at the table.

This small-group principle is a key to Apple’s ongoing success and key to any organization that wants to nurture quality thinking. The idea is pretty basic: Everyone in the room should be there for a reason. Segall distilled years of observing and practicing this idea down into two “Laws of Small.”

The quality of work resulting from a project is inversely proportional to the number of people involved in the project.

The quality of work resulting from a project increases in direct proportion to the degree of involvement by the ultimate decision maker.

To even speak of putting process before creativity did not happen in an environment like Apple’s. A better idea is a better idea – no matter where it fell in the process. The high value placed on ideas is one of the things that Steve Jobs burned into the Apple culture and it will likely continue to guide the company into the future.

How would small groups of smart people work in your organization?

Blunt is Simplicity. Meandering is Complexity.

Clarity propels an organization. Not occasional clarity but pervasive, twenty-four-hour, in-your-face, take-no-prisoners clarity.

– Ken Segall, Insanely Simple

Ken Segall is a former ad agency creative director who worked for Apple during Steve Jobs’ return to the helm of the iconic tech company. He also worked for many of the largest tech companies around: IBM, Dell, and Intel among others. He’s seen both sides of the fence, so to speak, and it’s not a pretty sight.

Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple’s Success is an amazing book detailing Apple’s return to brilliance under Steve Jobs. It’s loaded with personal stories and practical applications that your organization will find both fascinating and useful.

Like the necessity of being brutally honest in your communications.

According to Segall, Steve Jobs told you what was on his mind and he couldn’t care less how you might feel about it. Despite a general perception that Jobs was the nasty tyrant who demanded allegiance, barked commands, and instilled fear in those around him, this was an incomplete portrait. He could also be funny, warm, and even charming.

There is a huge difference between being brutally honest and simply being brutal.

Simplicity at Apple is the name of the game, and it requires that you be honest and never hold back. If you demand the same from those you work with, everyone will know where they stand.

One hundred percent of your group’s time will be focused on forward progress – and there will be no need to decode what people are really saying.

Learn the Powerful Lessons of Simplicity

Simplicity isn’t just a design principle at Apple – it’s a value that permeates every level of the organization.

-Ken Segall, Insanely Simple

Ken Segall was the creative director at several ad agencies, working for big-name tech companies like IBM, Intel, and Dell. However, it was his work with Apple over a period of years that gives him a unique perspective of the stark contrast of Apple’s ways that made Segall appreciate the power of Simplicity.

The obsession with Simplicity is what separates Apple from other technology companies. Led by Steve Jobs’ uncompromising ways, you can see Simplicity in everything Apple does: the way it’s structured, the way it innovates, and the way it speaks to its customers.

Insanely Simple gives you a true insider’s perspective on Apple’s obsession with Simplicity. Here are just a few of the topics covered:

  • Think Small – swearing allegiance to the concept of “small groups of smart people” raises both morale and productivity
  • Think Minimal – distilling choices to a minimum brings clarity to a company and its customers – as Jobs proved when he replaced over twenty product models with a lineup of four
  • Think Motion – keeping project teams in constant motion focuses creative thinking on well-defined goals and minimizes distractions
  • Think Iconic – using a simple, profound image to symbolize the benefits of a product or idea creates a deeper impression in the minds of customers

Segall introduces the book with the concept of The Simple Stick – a core value within Apple. Sometimes it’s held up as inspiration; other times it’s wielded like a club. In all cases, it’s a reminder of what sets Apple apart from other technology companies and what makes Apple stand out in a complicated world: a deep, almost religious belief in the power of Simplicity.

If you are a leader in ChurchWorld, you know about and fight the battle of Simplicity every day. It may seem like a losing battle, but you need to know that the results are worth the effort.

The simpler way isn’t always the easiest. Often it requires more time, more money, and more energy. It may require you to step on a few toes along the way. But more often than not, Simplicity leads to better results.

Simplicity needs a champion – someone who’s willing to stand up for its principles and strong enough to resist the overtures of Simplicity’s evil twin, Complexity.

Simplicity needs a leader who is willing to guide the process with both head and heart…

…someone like you?

To read more about Insanely Simple, go to the top of the page and click on the orange title of tomorrow’s post.