This is a rule I strive to live by as a product manager. As I work to improve my product line, I ask myself, “Is this the simplest version of the product that I can create?”
As my team and I create the controls for our product line, we are always asking, “Are these the simplest systems we can create?” We use this question to review all of the product design standards, sales strategies, and manufacturing processes that are in place.
As the demand for our product has grown, our team has naturally had to grow as well. We continually ask ourselves, “Is this the simplest organizational structure possible or are we creating layers of bureaucracy that inhibit us from future growth?”
Why do I believe that simplicity is so important? Because in today’s day and age, simplicity is what is hard to find. In contrast, complexity is everywhere. It is the natural byproduct of the hyper connected world we live in. It does not take long for the simple things we create to evolve into complex things.
So my goal is to combat the complexity evolution process. Because I know that simple beginnings will become complex endings, I don’t want to start with complexity. Doing so is a guaranteed way to have your products and systems balloon out of control.
“Complexity is your enemy. Any fool can make something complicated. It is hard to make something simple.” Richard Branson
This concept is not about stripping back functionality or making things cheap. I recognize that a lesser thing is not a better thing. There is a reason why I use a smartphone in place of my old flip phone. The smartphone is a better thing. There is also a reason why I own the fourth generation of that particular smartphone. It is faster, easier to use, and has more functionality than its predecessors. It is a better thing.
What I am suggesting is this. Let’s imagine two things produce the exact same result, but one needs more parts or steps than the other. I would suggest that the simpler of the two is better.
It may seem obvious that companies should apply this idea to their products and systems. Yet I would challenge you to consider the concept within the context of your own life. Do you use complicated products (how about that electric can opener)? Do you have daily habits that make your life more complex? If you wrote down every step you take for some work activity, would you find any waste?
My guess is that you answered yes to at least one of these questions (if not all). What I am hoping to show you is that making things simple can actually be difficult.
My challenge to you this week is to pick one thing that is complicating your life and work to simplify it. Don’t worry about achieving absolute efficiency, just try to make that one thing a little simpler than it already is.