Reflecting on Steve Jobs – part 2

Yesterday I shared my thinking on what we can learn from Steve Jobs in terms of thinking differently.  Today I want to look at the lessons that might apply from his ‘keep it simple’ approach.

Everything that Apple has produced (at least, in recent years) has been elegant, intuitive and simple.  This is the outcome of Steve Jobs’ relentless pursuit of “insanely great” design.

Every year, Apple’s instruction manuals grew thinner and thinner, until finally, today, there are no instruction manuals at all. The assumption is that you’ll be able to tear open the box and immediately start playing with your new toy.

Cliff Kuang

In addition, Apple has offered a relatively limited range of products – a variation of Henry Ford’s ‘Any colour, so long as it’s black!’  This honing of quality and range has required a great deal of effort and ‘nerve-holding’.

So what can we learn from this?

Well, in my view, we (especially in the public sector) need to get better at streamlining our processes and products.  Our interface with the public, service users, needs to be elegant, intuitive and simple.  This means that we need to focus on the customer experience.

Too often we confuse this with customer engagement.  Jobs had an interesting take on this:

“You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them.  By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.”

To be clear, I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t ask our customers what they want, but we need to find ways of helping them to see a different range of options for the future.  However, the crux of this lesson is that we need to manage the complexity of our world in the background (the equivalent of the technology behind Apple’s products), while keeping our ‘customer interface’ simple.

Easy?  No.  Valuable?  Undoubtedly.

How to do it?  Well, in many ways we need to test our ideas as relentlessly as Steve Jobs did.  And, while we’re doing it, we need to focus on the archetypal ‘Mrs Smith’, rather than our organisational behaviour and needs.


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