Simple is always better than complex for innovation adoption but managers are led to believe that complexity is impressive. The bigger corporations hire highly qualified folks with graduate or doctoral degrees. The latter are trained to read, understand and then extend their discipline’s knowledge. So you would hope that these folks come up with new ideas. And guess what – they do – but these ideas do not fly as high as they could within and outside their organizations.
[ Note: This post was published on July 25, 2012 and updated for formatting issues on February 6, 2021. The next paragraph pertains to Apple in 2012. It turns out that keeping the user experience “simple” has worked for Apple as of 2021 !]
The trouble is that very few innovators are able to keep all the complexity in the back end like Steve Jobs of Apple. This despite some recent (2012) disappointment with Apple’s performance. Steve Jobs figured out that there are very large affluent global market segments who do not want to become techies but yet want to use technology and are willing to pay. For these folks Apple products provide cutting edge technology at the back end and a wonderful user friendly design and great user experience at the front end. Thus, the Apple engineers and designers have all that complexity training from graduate school and are able to pull together the next frontier of knowledge and deploy that knowledge into their products. It’s not entirely clear whether the back end of Apple technology is the simplest possible, for example, that they consider putting the least number of soldering or screws to make it easy to manufacture and now repair with their extended warranty programs. We do know that the front customer experience simplicity came from the fanatical insistence of Steve Jobs.
Generally its desirable to keep things as simple as possible. In this context the Mark Twain quote ““I never write Metropolis for seven cents because I can get the same price for city..”.. is great advise. For if you stay simple for whatever your work output, it has a better chance of getting understood and enjoyed. Obviously Twain had figured out that using the word “city” in place of “metropolis” would give him more traction with his readers.
Everett Rogers also emphasized that simplicity helps innovation diffusion which is one of the five factors of innovation diffusion.
So the next time you or your team are making a presentation, putting out an idea or just producing some work output think about making it simple and easy for your customer even when the customer is an internal one. This way, you are likely to get far more traction for your innovation efforts.