Every day I see, or read about, some new productivity tool that promises to make it easier to manage all of the information and/or complexity that seems to be growing exponentially in my life. I don’t have a lot of extra time, so it is such a pleasant surprise when I find a new product or solution that solves a problem that I have, but doesn’t require hours of study to figure out how to use it effectively.
Apple has always been great at this. I bought one of the first Macintosh computers when I was in college. Started using it right away and never even opened the manual. They did the same thing with the iPod. The Browser was another a game changer – very powerful, but I don’t recall ever seeing a user manual. I think simplicity is one of the most powerful value propositions for consumers and businesses. It also happens to be one of the toughest and most challenging to deliver from a development/engineering standpoint. It is not easy to be simple. Obviously, it takes extremely bright and capable developers. More importantly, it takes an insightful and creative understanding of how the user works and what they are trying to accomplish. Maybe, most importantly, it takes an incredible amount of discipline to know when enough is enough.
The power of simplicity was one of the reasons we decided to invest in a small back-up and recovery solution developed by a company called Rebit. When we looked at the market for PC back-up we saw that it was crowded with competitors and pretty sparse when it came to actual users. Most of the back-up solutions were too complicated and time consuming to use. Rebit is pretty amazing in terms of both its power and its simplicity. You just plug it in, accept the license and then it backs up your entire system – operating system, applications and files/data. You can restore your entire system, or just a single file. You don’t schedule it – it backs up anything new, once you stop using the keyboard for 10 or 15 seconds. It took some brilliant engineering to make such a simple product.
As I was thinking about this, I thought it would be interesting to look at how many times simplicity was a key ingredient in a breakthrough product or solution. I could use some help generating the list, if you have any examples.