Ken Segall knows what he is talking about. For many years he worked with the Emperor of Simplicity, Steve Jobs. Ken is the former Apple and NeXT ad agency creative director who came up with the Think Different campaign and put the "I" in front of the Mac and therefore the Pod, Phone and Pad.
His excellent 2012 book 'Insanely Simple' examined how Apple got back on top of the tech and business worlds by replacing big-business complexity with simplicity. It's a must-read if you're interested in Jobs and the history of Apple, as well as for anyone involved in creative marketing and advertising.
His new book, 'Think Simple: How Smart Leaders defeat Complexity' (Portfolio/Penguin, 2016), is less a history of Apple and Steve Jobs, although both are mentioned plenty. This time it's about how other companies have also used simplicity as a potent business weapon. As such, it's aimed more at business leaders than the marketing crowd, but they'd miss a few tricks if they thought they'd learnt everything about simplicity in Segall's first book.
Each of the 10 chapters is devoted to a theme that's applicable to most businesses: mission, leadership, brand, etc.
How to use simplicity as a business tool
Segall's point is that simplicity is a deceptive concept. "Simplicity takes work" but it can "power a company to amazing growth or revive a company that's become mired in complexity" – look no further than Steve Jobs' Apple revolution for a prime example.
The enemy is complexity, which Segall blames as a side effect of civilization: "The more we discover, the more we invent, the more we advance… the more complicated life becomes".
Being complicated is easy, making things simpler is the challenge.
Indeed, Segall states that there is really no such thing as simplicity – just the perception of simplicity – "it's what the customer takes away from the experience".
Segall has interviewed key executives from a diverse range of industries, from Westpak Bank to Ben & Jerry's, from Whole Foods to Electronic Arts. And there's still plenty of room for more Apple stories, and some cringeworthy horrors from Microsoft and Dell.
There are interviews with Ron Johnson, who conceived and built the Apple Stores and the Genius Bar, and with Steve Wilhite, Apple's former VP of Marketing.
We don't just see the glowing examples, but there's lessons galore in Johnson's post-Apple short-lived time at the helm of JCPenney. And the fate of Johnson's successor at Apple Retail, ex-Dixons cost-slasher John Browett, is a sobering one.
Streamline to create something compelling
Like Apple you need to streamline – taking many things and turning them into fewer things – to create something more compelling, and more focused. You need a clear mission statement. Observe how your employees embrace that mission, and involve everyone in reaching that goal. Clarify, empower (think Steve's prompt promotion of Jonny Ive on his return in 1997) and aim high. Think like a start-up, and trust yourself.
Of course, many of these are all staples trotted out in vanilla business manuals, but Segall's 'Think Simple' focuses the power of simplicity at these lofty aims and explains them all with real-world examples from business leaders who've been there and simplified it.
While the message might be simple, the getting there will be anything but. Armed with 'Think Simple' your business won't immediately rival Apple's, but you should progress more smoothly away from the complexity that strangles so many.
Ken Segall learnt from the master of simplicity, Steve Jobs and has interviewed 40 more business pioneers. 'Think Simple' is our chance to also learn from Steve and those who followed him.
Buy Think Simple from Amazon for £10.49.