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Innovation is as much about what to leave out as what to put in … taking away as much as adding to.

Although innovation is commonly thought of as coming up with the next most awesome and amazing, buzzy thing … it’s often not!

It’s about improving design so that things work better and smarter!

You have to be visionary to take away, to simplify.

It is so much easier to throw everything at the wall, as you continue to think of all the cool things you want your product to do. For each thing, add a button or a feature. Easy! Right?

Easy, until your customer is so confused that you end up with endless help calls, or they get so exhausted and frustrated by your product they give up and use something else.

When you build in things that your customer didn’t even know they needed, it is way past time to stop and think about what you are making and why.

It is time for a bit of innovation in “less is more”.

True innovation should take the form of better customer experiences (or patient experiences, or citizen experiences).

One of the best ways to improve any experience is to simplify it—to remove complications, unnecessary layers, hassles or distractions, while focusing on the essence of what people want and need in that particular situation.

It makes the user experience more satisfactory, makes a better, more efficient product or service, and gives you room to grow as you learn from customer behavior and feedback.

Everybody wins!

Perhaps Peter Drucker said it best when he cited simplicity as one of the key principles of innovation: “An innovation, to be effective, has to be simple and it has to be focused. It should do only one thing, otherwise it confuses. If it is not simple, it won’t work.

Generally it’s desirable to keep things as simple as possible

The best ideas are more often than not the simplest ones.

The obvious solutions, the ones that are right in front of us, are usually the best and the ones that generate the most success.

Simplicity is at the heart of some of the most successful innovations … here are a few of my favourites within the business community;

Ferrari: To reduce email volume complexity, each Ferrari employee is only able to send the same email to three colleagues. A computer add-in stops more people from being added to “To”, “Cc” or “Bcc”.

Amazon: As Amazon grew and grew, CEO Jeff Bezos observed there were more meetings, with an increasing number of attendees. He initiated the 2 pizza rule: if you cannot feed everyone in the meeting with 2 large pizzas, there are too many people. Guidance was issued that meetings should have no more than 7 people.

Home Depot: Store managers were supplied with a ‘Bull-sh*t’ stamp from Head Office. They could apply this to paperwork they felt was time wasting and return it to Head Office. This challenged senior managers at Head Office to think about whether what they were sending out to the stores was worth store managers’ time.

Richer Sounds: As the business grew, the CEO introduced a ‘Cut the cr*p committee’. At every monthly leadership meeting, leaders were asked to find an unnecessary rule or policy that could be stopped.

The most impactful initiatives are the ones which simplify what your people do the most of every day. Ask your people which activities frustrate them most and then do something about these.

No industry or category of business, regardless of how inherently complex it may be, is beyond simplification.

In fact, the more complex an industry is, and the more complicated a particular product or service within that industry may be, the more opportunities there are for simplification—and the more it will tend to be valued and appreciated by customers!