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Why the 'simplest' approach is often the hardest

Time to reassess

If you could choose to do something in a simple way or a complicated way, wouldn’t you choose the former? Whether you’re talking about creating an organisational database or planning a holiday with the family, most of us are looking for new and more streamlined ways of getting things done. And those organisations that can deliver a step change in simplicity are usually the ones that make a real difference.

Take the Mini. In 1959 the automotive industry was booming, with cars becoming faster, flashier and more complicated. Enter Mini’s designer Alex Issingonis, who stripped back everything that wasn’t necessary and created a vehicle that embodied the purity of design. It was a runaway success that changed the market forever and remains one of the world’s best selling cars today.

Achieving this level of ‘simplicity’ was actually a monumental technical and design challenge, something considerably harder than simply adding to what had come before. But as the results prove, it was worth it.

Are you overcomplicating things?

Now have a think about your own organisation, about how you do what you do. Are you making things unnecessarily complicated? Are there areas where things are taking longer than they should, involving too many people, going through too many sign off stages?

Allow simplicity to become your new mantra. In meetings, ask people to clarify what they mean. When developing a new product, challenge complicated ideas. Question ambiguity and muddled thinking and replace it with clarity of purpose.

Finding the ‘simple’ way is rarely the easiest, fastest or cheapest way to achieve your goal, but the rewards can be huge. The things you produce, just like the Mini, will stand the test of time, unburdened by the weight of added complexity.

A way to start thinking simply

Try these challenges to find out whether your organisation has a defined purpose or see if it is weighed down by unnecessary baggage.

  • Can you describe your mission in one sentence or is there ambiguity about why you exist? If you can’t sum your raison d'être in the time it takes to shake somebody’s hand then you haven’t made it simple enough.
  • Do you have a healthy turnover of projects and campaigns? Or are old ideas ‘parked’ around your organisation like rusting Ford Fiestas. Keep your fleet of projects small and fine-tuned.
  • Have team members’ roles within your organisation become unclear? It’s sometimes hard to spot when layers of management and byzantine organisational bureaucracy have grown up over the years. We are not suggesting cutting your staff, but it’s healthy to reassess roles and restructure if necessary.
How we keep things simple at Worthers

At Worthers we don’t think simplicity is optional - it’s a core part of how we work, even how we think.

For example, we’ve deliberately ensured everyone on our team works with the same platform. The usual trend in development is to allow programmers the choice of a preferred platform, but we’ve found that adds unnecessary complexity to the process. Far better to keep it simple.

With every developer on the team using the same platform that means anyone can jump onto any project at any time, solving problems and saving time. It may take more work initially - but the rewards are worth it.

As Steve Jobs said:“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.”

5 months ago | Thought Leaders

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