Want simplicity? Be prepared to fight for it.

by Peter Crocker

From product design and processes to marketing and language, small businesses need simplicity to prosper. So why is it so elusive?

“Less is more”, “short and sweet” and “Keep it simple stupid (KISS)” are powerful philosophies. They sound straightforward, but are actually tricky for small businesses to attain.

Things start off simple. Innovative products, start-up business models and fresh ideas are generally born into the world polished up and free of baggage. But then they attract the sticky tentacles of complexity. Simplicity drifts into chaos as ‘stuff’ flies in to fill up the vacuum.

I’ve long had an interest in, but never mastered, the elusive art of simplicity. Here are some of the things I’ve discovered:

Less is usually more

The temptation is always to add. More features. More options. More words. More stuff. And before you know it, the strong and focused concept you started with is diluted and confused.

“The simplest way to achieve simplicity is through thoughtful reduction.” LawsOfSimplicity.com

Simplicity is prioritisation

But less is not always more. You need to identify what is truly essential, and only eliminate that which is dispensable. Ruthlessly prioritise who, and what, deserves your limited time and attention.

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” Albert Einstein

Simplicity is honesty

Say what you really think, even if it’s not what others might want to hear. Too much time and effort is wasted skirting around issues that can be put to bed in one open conversation.

Simplicity is leadership

Delegate to good people then get out of the way. Make timely decisions and stick to them without over-analysis. Don’t be afraid to say no to non-essential requests.

Simplicity looks easy

Beautiful design can look effortless. Brilliant ideas seem obvious in hindsight. But they are usually the end result of hours of hard work and years of study and experience.

“An expert is someone who has succeeded in making decisions and judgements simpler through knowing what to pay attention to and what to ignore.” Edward de Bono

Simplicity is an epic battle

No wonder true simplicity is so rare, if not unattainable. It is a never-ending battle against a tireless force.

But the alternative is chaos. And put simply, that sucks. Do you have anything to add (or take away)?

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