Why simple is best close

David Hart
In Musings
18th September 2012
Why simple is best

Simple is good.

Simple lets you see the wood for the trees. When you try to do one thing well, rather than several things as well as you can, the outcome will always be better. If all you had to do today was paint your front door, what a great looking front door it would be. You wouldn't cut corners, you'd take your time, you'd get it right.

Simple isn't easy.

It takes hard work to find the one thing that you need to focus on: trying to work out what the problem you are trying to solve is. It's too easy to say, 'yeah - and then we could do x, y and z, too'. It's hard not to continually tweak a good idea until it becomes confused. It's why people struggle to boil their concepts down to a single idea.

Simple is about clarity.

George Bernard Shaw said "I'm sorry this letter is so long, I didn't have time to make it shorter." Clarity is why we have an elevator pitch. It's less about the fact that your potential backers don't have time to hear your idea, and more that they need to feel confident that other people will 'get it'.

What's the smallest thing you can do very well?

There will be one thing that will totally delight your customers. It might be because they share a niche that isn't properly catered for. It might be something that everyone just accepts can't be done easily. But if you can find it and then do it as well as you can, better than anyone else, then how will that make your customers feel?

Simple gets to the point.

When you find a great app that you like and you want to tell your friends about it, where do you start? Do you explain all its features, or just the key one? Do you describe its use of fonts, or do you tell them about why you find it so great to use? Do you try to define the business model, or do you try to condense it into as few words as possible? "It's like Google Alerts for Twitter", "It translates text in real time", "It orders you a black cab", "It tells you the name of the tune that is being played".

Simple lets you be agile.

Creating a product is like venturing into a cave. You get a sense of what it might be like from the entrance, but it's not until you climb down it and look around, that you really start to know what you're dealing with. You probably don't want to overburden yourself the first time: you might want to climb out again. Keeping things simple allows you to back up, learn from your experiences, but not be so committed that you can only continue in one direction.

Simple prevents confusion.

And confusion kills great ideas. Muddying the water, considering all the options, bringing others in, pausing for breath, reporting back to the board, getting legal advice, adding it to the mix, adding it to the road map. They are all delaying tactics that only add confusion and get us away from what we're trying to achieve. What if a committee's only task was to simplify an idea? What if the only questions you could ask when someone presented an idea was about whether there was a simpler way of achieving something?

Simple focuses your energy.

There is always more you could do. You could always work harder, longer, more diligently. But if we could simplify our 'to-do' list: get rid of things that were of marginal value, and just focus on the tasks that will make a big difference, how much more productive would we be?

Simple makes you happy.

When have you been happiest recently? Watching your child discover something new? Standing on top of a mountain? Sat in front of a fire? Laughing with friends? I bet it was something simple: something that was just in that moment: that one thing that produced a wave of happiness: something uncomplicated.