Posted August 11, 2015 by Amy Timco
Why is Apple one of the most valuable companies on earth… and what can the education world learn from its unique culture? Insanely Simple is an insider’s look at Steve Jobs’ legendary business and marketing philosophy, summarized in one quote:
“Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end, because once you get there, you can move mountains.”
– Steve Jobs, Businessweek, May 25, 1998
In Insanely Simple, Ken Segall, a long-time marketing professional who is personally responsible for the iconic “i” in the iMac name, describes the battle between two forces, Simplicity and Complexity. He paints this struggle in starkly religious and moral tones to emphasize the importance and pervasion of each philosophy in various business models.
Simplicity, he contends, is innately attractive to human beings, but is deceptively difficult to achieve. Complexity is far more pervasive and takes the form of focus groups, bloated and unnecessary meetings, overly formalized business structures, jargonized, meaningless product names, wordy advertising, lack of ongoing involvement from a project’s final approver, and many other insidious business practices that wear a semblance of sense, but in reality impede and sometimes even cripple an organization’s effectiveness.
To combat the dark forces of Complexity, Segall gives practical advice on how to achieve Simplicity in your organization. Though these directives are aimed at business groups, there is much that the education world can take from this list as well. Playing off Apple’s historic “Think different” campaign, Segall frames ten practices that can move an organization from Complexity to Simplicity:
Some of these directives sound easy, while others may feel almost impossible. Like many religions, Simplicity requires more than lip service from its devotees. Throughout his narrative, Segall emphasizes the cost of Simplicity; it can’t be pursued halfheartedly. Wielding the “Simple Stick” may cost you popularity, position, and even personal challenges as you swim upstream against Complexity. But the end result is worth it.
As both a marketing professional and bona fide human being, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It’s peppered with interesting stories about working with Jobs in Apple’s high-powered, high-stakes world, and I found Segall’s own common-sense marketing approach to be very valuable. On a personal level, Insanely Simple has caused me to reconsider some of my professional practices. Things as minor as trimming my emails to be more direct, looking for ways to simplify internal processes, and revisiting some of my presentation techniques are just a few of the ways I’ll be ousting Complexity.
Insanely Simple is not just a great how-to manual on boosting productivity and results; it’s also an engaging, inspiring, and eminently human read that will stay with me for a long time to come. I recommend it! What similar inspiring titles would you recommend?