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The Simplicity Thesis

| August 21, 2012

by Jim Bruce

Today’s reading is “The Simplicity Thesis” by Aaron Levie, CEO and cofounder of Box.

Levie begins his piece with the provocative statement “A fascinating trend is consuming Silicon Valley and beginning to eat away at the rest of the world:  the radical simplification of everything.”  He continues by noting Jeff Bezos’ “rallying cry against gatekeepers that perpetuate complexity and block innovation.”  His thesis is simple:  Any market where unnecessary middlemen stand between customers and their successful use of a solution is about to be disrupted.

Levie asserts that if ”you’re making the customer do any extra amount of work, no matter what industry you call home, you’re now a target for disruption.“  And, he has examples:  Instagram, SolveBio, Amazon, Spotify, Box, Square …  All have the lowest level of complexity for the maximum amount of value.

He also notes that the irony of simplicity is that it invariably lets you do more.  It isn’t about giving up any value;  it’s about designing technology and products thoughtfully to make them substantially more useful an attainable.

So, how do you begin to think ”simplicity“?

1.  Think end to end.  Look at the entire experience, from the real beginning to the real end.

2.  Say no.  Kill off the unused and unnecessary.

3.  Specialize.  Focus on your core competency;  get less on your plate.

4.  Focus on details.

5.  Audit constantly.  The key question:  Can this be done any simpler?

Levie also notes that simplicity is a relative, moving target.  Your simple solution today is going to look complex tomorrow as everyone keeps searching for this holy grain.

So, let me challenge you today.  Think about something important to you that you are currently working on.  Take some time and reduce the complexity of your process, your solution, etc.  


Have a great week.  .  .  .     jim