Simplicity ≠ Simplistic

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The increasing complexity of modern living makes us crave simplicity. For
customer experience professionals, Simplicity is the new black. At all levels within businesses – the C-Suite, Marketers, Operations, and Technology teams – we are hearing the chant of the Simplicity mantra. However, most business leaders tend to underestimate the arduous path to Simplicity. ‘Simplicity’ is often sacrificed at the altar of the ‘Simplistic’.

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The words share the same Latin root, Simplus, but the connotations are quite different.
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While the refrain ‘Keep It Simple’ gets louder, businesses are approaching the journey to Simplicity with a certain naiveté. Achieving the holy grail of simplicity is not easy, certainly not simple, and never fast. Simplicity is not a starting point, neither is it a destination, it is a continuous iterative process.

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In the spirit of the article, I will summarize my thoughts in four laws.

The Laws of Simplicity:

  • The First Law: The opposite of Simplicity is not Complexity but Confusion.
  • The Second Law: The path to Simplicity is through Complexity.
  • The Third Law: Complexity is never eliminated but can only be reduced or concealed.
  • The Fourth Law: Simplicity is achieved by finding the right balance between usability and usefulness.

In the words of my idol,
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6 COMMENTS

  1. Agree. I think the contrived brevity that Twitter has created and fostered, the social acceptance of multi-tasking, and chronic capitulation to “do more with less” have reinforced society’s craving for quick fixes.

    Evidence:

    articles describing “The One Thing you need to do to . . .” (there rarely is just one thing),

    “The Six Mistakes That Cause . . .” (using the article The before a list is always a turn-off for me),

    articles containing the words “the answer is simple . . . ” (translation: the writer’s/speaker’s thinking is simplistic.)

    Writers who self-describe their own thoughts and ideas as “laws” or “immutable truths.” (the writer has eliminated his or her obligation to thoroughly explain anything, or to invite thoughtful argument.)

    Simplicity has always had a positive connotation, but its appeal has mutated into bombast. Unfortunately, this approach appeals to many people who insist on receiving concrete “action items” that won’t burden them with taking the time to explore them more thoroughly.

  2. B2B and B2C consumers will gravitate to vendors able to provide experiences with a minimum of complexity. In customer experience, simplicity depends on clarity of content and communication, processes that can be easily navigated, and employees trained and motivated to remove obstacles for customers and own the relationship with them. So long as this produces desired experience value for customers, simplicity will yield more positive and memorable emotional responses, driving loyalty behavior. Since ‘simplistic’ isn’t necessarily customer-centric, it should never be offered as a surrogate or substitute for simplicity.

  3. Andrew, Thank you for your thoughts. Also noted, your comment – Writers who self-describe their own thoughts and ideas as “laws” or “immutable truths.”

  4. Chip, Thank you for your comment and encouragement. My brevity was by design. It was hard to write a simple article on simplicity. I am glad that it resonated with you.

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