Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple’s Success by Ken Segall

Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple's Success by Ken Segall

To Steve Jobs, Simplicity was a religion. It was also a weapon.

Simplicity isn’t just a design principle at Apple—it’s a value that permeates every level of the organization. The obsession with Simplicity is what separates Apple from other technology companies. It’s what helped Apple recover from near death in 1997 to become the most valuable company on Earth in 2011.

Thanks to Steve Jobs’s uncompromising ways, you can see Simplicity in everything Apple does: the way it’s structured, the way it innovates, and the way it speaks to its customers.

It’s by crushing the forces of Complexity that the company remains on its stellar trajectory.

As ad agency creative director, Ken Segall played a key role in Apple’s resurrection, helping to create such critical marketing campaigns as Think different. By naming the iMac, he also laid the foundation for naming waves of i-products to come.

Segall has a unique perspective, given his years of experience creating campaigns for other iconic tech companies, including IBM, Intel, and Dell. It was the stark contrast of Apple’s ways that made Segall appreciate the power of Simplicity—and inspired him to help others benefit from it.

In Insanely Simple, you’ll be a fly on the wall inside a conference room with Steve Jobs, and on the receiving end of his midnight phone calls. You’ll understand how his obsession with Simplicity helped Apple perform better and faster, sometimes saving millions in the process. You’ll also learn, for example, how to:

• Think Minimal: Distilling choices to a minimum brings clarity to a company and its customers—as Jobs proved when he replaced over twenty product models with a lineup of four.
• Think Small: Swearing allegiance to the concept of “small groups of smart people” raises both morale and productivity.
• Think Motion: Keeping project teams in constant motion focuses creative thinking on well-defined goals and minimizes distractions.
• Think Iconic: Using a simple, powerful image to symbolize the benefit of a product or idea creates a deeper impression in the minds of customers.
• Think War: Giving yourself an unfair advantage—using every weapon at your disposal—is the best way to ensure that your ideas survive unscathed.

Segall brings Apple’s quest for Simplicity to life using fascinating (and previously untold) stories from behind the scenes. Through his insight and wit, you’ll discover how companies that leverage this power can stand out from competitors—and individuals who master it can become critical assets to their organizations.

Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple's Success by Ken Segall

Audio Audio book Review: Insanely Simple

Insanely Simple Book Cover

Of all the Audio books about Apple that have come out after Steve Jobs’s death, Ken Segall’s Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple’s Success (published April, 2012) is the best I have listened .Perhaps that is because the Audio book’s theme is not Apple or Jobs per se. Insanely Simple is a business Audio book that explains Apple’s phenomenal success with Steve Jobs’s passion for simplicity.

As creative director for the advertising agencies Steve Jobs chose for his companies – first, NeXT, and later, Apple – Ken Segallworked closely with Steve for more than a decade. Recounting his experiences with Apple as a company and Steve in particular, the author tries to uncover what makes Apple so successful and different than the competition. Segall breaks down everything from marketing over product design and operations to meeting culture and openness in communication into one aspect: a total obsession with simplicity.

To Steve Jobs, simplicity was a religion. It was also a weapon. Simplicity isn’t just a design principle at Apple – it’s a value that permeates every level of the organization. The obsession with Simplicity is what separates Apple from other technology companies. It’s what helped Apple recover from near death in 1997 to become the most valuable company on earth in 2011.

In ten chapters, Segall applies simplicity to different parts of the company. Lessons learned include the benefits of small meetings, concentrating your marketing efforts on just one message (as seen in Apple’s ad campaigns and on its home page), Steve’s sometimes brutal honesty with employees (it’s better to give an honest opinion than to hide behind nice words even if that means hurting someone), and the insight that simple product names are better than complex ones. If that sounds like common sense, it’s because it is. And yet, most organizations seem unable to imitate Apple in its strive for simplicity. From the Audio book:

One of the downsides of Simplicity is that it travels with a curse. That is, sometimes it just seems to easy. It certainly doesn’t seem easy to the person or persons who worked night and day to come up with the simple idea. But to the casual viewer, or even the manager reviewing the idea, it might just look obvious.

Furthermore, complexity often represents the easy way out of a difficult situation. Letting a person sit in on a meeting although you know he isn’t needed is easier than asking him to leave. Advertising two products with equal size on your home page is easier to sell in the organization than having to tell one division that their product won’t get any advertising love this quarter. Making compromises is easy. Unfortunately, every compromise means more complexity.

The most entertaining parts of the Audio book surely are the many anecdotes Ken Segall can recount from his meetings with Steve Jobs. Many of those had not been published before the Audio book came out but if you have followed the Apple blogs in the last few months, you probably have heard about most of them. For example, the author tells the story how the iMac almost ended up being called “MacMan”, and the origins of the iconic Think Different campaign. These are a joy to listen to.

I thoroughly enjoyed listen toing this Audio book, and I hope I can apply some of the rules of simplicity in my own work. If you want to learn more, listen to the author’s blog post where he describes the Audiobook from his perspective.

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Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple’s Success by Ken Segall
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