The Power of Simplicity

Posted on by in Business, Creativity/Innovation, Design, Remarkability

Have you tried Su Doku yet?  For months I kept looking at the displays at Borders but kept thinking to myself, "I’m too busy to pick up another habit/addiction/pursuit."  So, for months, I just walked by the display—until this Christmas when my mother gave my father a Su Doku book.  Then, when no one was looking, I grabbed the book and went into another room to find what all the craze was about—and before long, I was addicted to it—as well as my wife and my two teenage daughters.

   So, why is Su Doku so addicting? Why in about a year’s time has a new craze hit the market and taken off so quickly? I would argue, because of its simplicity (or, should I say its apparent simplicity—since Su Doku can be incredibly frustrating when something that appears so simple stymies you, time after time).  Now, if you haven’t played Su Doku its simple lay out is a group of nine blocks of nine squares.  You can play online to get a feel for it at a number of sites like  The basic rule is that you have to use the numbers 1-9 in each row, column and box—but only once in each row, column and box.  How simple is that?

In fact, it’s so simple that you can’t help but be addicted to it.  Not just because it’s so simple, but because the back side is so complex.  What appears to be so simple at first glance, can cause someone to spend far more time than they want to confess on trying to figure out that "simple" 9×9 board!

But, it’s clearly not just the creators of Su Doku who have figured out the simplicity value, Apple has made billions on it.  For example, the beauty of the iPod is it’s simplicity—especially when linked with the iTunes music store.  Point and Click 35mm digital cameras have made billions because of their relative ease over the old manual SLRs.  And Intuit recently released a new version of Quick Books called  Simple Start because the power of the regular Quick Books wasn’t simple enough for a large segment of the population. 

In other words, one of the dominate values of a remarkable company or product is simplicity (and that simplicity does translate into dollars).  Most people are overwhelmed. So any company that can take something complex and make it simple, will be rewarded handsomely.  Now, this doesn’t mean that the backside of the product isn’t complex—in fact, if a product wants to earn significant market share and profits it probably needs to be incredibly complex on the inside (i.e Su Doku, the Apple iPod, point and click Digital 35 mm cameras and Simple Start).  But, from the standpoint, of the user, it needs to appear simple to use.  Why?  Because it’s that simplicity that drives consumers to want to own that device that will make life easier for them.

So, as you look at your products and/or services, are they simple to use in the eyes of your customers?  Have you asked them?  Have you watched them use your product and/or service? And then, keep asking yourself, "How can I make this simpler and easier for my customers to use?"  Remember, there are plenty of profits out there for those who figure out the answers to these questions.

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