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Profits down? Ask for simplicity

When pressured on profits, many companies revert to budget cuts (choose your %), hire freezes (usually indefinite) and total travel bans. Sounds familiar?

This trilogy’s become so widespread you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s the miracle cure to declining profits. Yet, while it all sounds quite plausible, deep down, we know it rarely adds up.

The problem with this trilogy is it’s simplistic. That is, treating a rather complex problem as if it were much simpler than it really is. For example, when times are tough, some areas of a business need more investment, not less. Etc.

So, instead of asking teams to “cut, freeze and ban”, how about asking them to find ways to make things simpler? Because simplification generates both savings AND unlocks new growth opportunities. That’s a BIG difference.

Also, giving teams license to ‘make things simpler’ provides them with a liberating framework to share ideas they often already had but didn’t really know how to socialize. We’ve seen hundreds of simplification ideas released this way.

To illustrate the bigger point that ‘less is very often more’, let’s look at a business classic: Steve Jobs returning to a near bankrupt Apple in 1997 and turning it around in an epic way. For context, his three predecessors had all tried different flavours of the trilogy, and failed.

Jobs, a simplification grand master, had as a guiding principle “Apple doesn’t do things like big companies”. So out went meetings with too many people in favour of small teams of pros. Out went endless status reports and complex approval processes. The same applied to Apple’s products with the extensive line-up of boring, grey box computers being ousted.

The moral of this story is ‘when in trouble, simplify’. With simplification, loads of internal meetings and processes will go flying out the window, leaving more time to get the job done and delighting customers.

Skeptical? Job’s focus on simplicity changed Apple’s destiny and revolutionized music (iPod), invented the tablet (iPad) and changed how we connect with each other, and the world, forever (iPhone).

By 2011, Apple had become the world’s most valuable company, a position it still holds today.



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