Innovation through Simplification

innovation through simplificationInnovation through simplification? Sounds easy, but in my view its rarely achieved well. Let me start with an analogy. When I write a speech or a presentation I go through four stages.

  1. Put everything I can think of that’s remotely connected to the topic down on paper.
  2. Spend some time re-arranging, editing to form a coherent (sometimes) and compelling (rarely) argument.
  3. Forget about the presentation for a day or so.
  4. Revisit the presentation, and pare it down to the bare bones. The important bits; the bits that will make the point quickly and well.

(You can see that this blog never got to stage 3, let alone stage 4!)

For me its the last stage that turns something ordinary, into something better. George Bernard Shaw said it well:

"I'm sorry this letter is so long, I didn't have time to make it shorter."

It’s an example in a way of innovation through simplification. It’s an example that many of us can relate to without being the founder of Uber or a budding Steve Jobs!

There’s a thought provoking blog “The Psychology Of Innovation: From Purpose To Gratitude“, that talks about how Walt Disney’s basic idea was “to make people happy. Indeed [and he] did just that by creating the happiest place on Earth (Disneyland) with iconic characters like Snow White and Mickey Mouse.” He didn’t at the outset get into the “How”. He just had a simple “Why” that became the foundation of his empire.

For me though, there is a difference between a simple idea and innovation through simplification. Walt had a simple idea; but he is perhaps not the best example of innovation through simplification.

Nor can you just make things simpler by deciding to do so….it takes hard work. As Daria Shualy of daPulse puts it, “Simple is not your starting point; it’s the end result of a long perfection process. You reach perfection by building, measuring, improving, or removing.”

So simplification is the end point. Not the process itself. Innovation through simplification is conceptually very straight forward, but there are no short cuts. Its just like the simple presentation. It needs to be distilled from something more complex.

Innovation through simplification is the same: Build, Measure, Improve and Remove 


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