Is Simple The Great Innovation?


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Technology has gotten far more complicated over the years. I remember when I used to manage my own network. I had about 20 servers, some hosted for customers, but they were fairly easy to deal with. Yea, I spent a few weekends on the phone with Microsoft, but it wasn’t too bad, as I look back at things. I wasn’t a technologist, I was an ex-banker turned CRM consultant and business owner. I didn’t need complication in my life, I was trying to run a business with over 100 implementations in North America – in a time when GoToMyPC was a twinkle in someone’s eye. Traveling and system administration didn’t mix well. At a more basic level, business consulting and IT are not one in the same.

But just because, now, we can reach out to our customers over the Internet inexpensively doesn’t mean we need more complexity in our lives. Networking is more complicated, security is more complicated, virtualization seems straight forward, but is not something that a business owner should be thinking about. Every time I talk to the IT people I work with, I’m overwhelmed at all the tools and knowledge you need today. I don’t have room in my brain for it. The stuff I deal with certainly hasn’t gotten any simpler.

How much longer will we accept platforms, systems and software that is cumbersome, complicated, slow, buggy and basically delivers little value to an organization, or person, who is dynamic and adaptive? We’re supposed to adapt to crap (That almost rhymes)?  The only thing I want to adapt to is simple, functional and valuable. I don’t need anymore obstacles in my professional life. They have derailed my goals far too many times. I can’t deliver value to my clients unless I have the time to search for it.

Simply Innovative

As much as I’m not a fan of Apple’s proprietary approach to business, I have to admit that they’ve gone a long way to drive experience back to simplicity. The UI for the iPod, iPhone and iPad is simple, clean and easy to use. And the size of the devices are convenient to use, anywhere. The size also limits what a developer can do because of the limited screen real estate. It’s forced them to come up with new ideas.

ipad The end results are simple task oriented apps that get specific jobs done. I believe this is where the computing world is heading – at least on a mass consumption level. But, so many consumers are adopting this experience that it’s only a matter of time before we see some very smart, and innovative, business vendors deliver historically complex experiences in bite size, focused solutions. Helping people do their jobs, not throwing obstacles in their way. Users are going to be clamoring for these simpler tools.

Many of us didn’t even see the obstacles of our existing platforms until this new stuff starting coming out. But it’s clear that innovators were out there understanding the frustrations and obstacles in the jobs people do, not asking how they can make existing platforms and applications better.

Henry Ford is noted as saying that if he had asked customers how to make things better, they would have asked for a faster horse.

I’m sure there have been many people who were frustrated with the tools they had. More importantly, they had other frustrations about their job that were being ignored, and these cumbersome, time-consuming platforms certainly didn’t help them find time to deal with them. If you had asked someone, and I have, the answer would have sounded like “just make my life easer!”  The problem, of course, is that we didn’t know what that would look like, and the technology didn’t exist to point to.

I’m happy that simple is making a comeback. But there is a really great lesson to learn here. You can’t ask your customer “how do I improve my product?”. If you do that, you will end up with that first picture. I’ve seen this hundreds of times over. It’s simple a fact – at least in my world. Entrepreneurs need to innovate by tackling problems related to the jobs we’re doing – business jobs and personal jobs. Consultants, like me, need to recognize the same thing, because isn’t it our job to innovate for every single engagement? The answer to that, my friends, is yes.

Go see the jobs your customers are doing. Identify obstacles, inefficiencies and frustrations relative to those jobs. Recognize that the job is bigger than your software or service. Solve the problem. You are now an innovator.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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