Taking away

James Gardner has a good post about innovation by taking things away. He uses the example of Dropbox which has been hugely successful by keeping things simple.

The pressure is usually on to keep adding things. I feel this lots of the time in the run up to meetings where the various parties keep wanting to add new bits of process to the event. I often feel I earn most of my fee for my ability to invent new and polite ways to say no to these suggestions.

I’m reminded of Csikszentmihalyi’s injunction (in his book Good Business):

One of the key tasks of management is to create an organization that stimulates the complexity of those who belong to it.

When we overcomplicate a system, we actually interfere with human’s ability to do clever things with it.

The other area of my life where I’d like to see some of this kind of taking away is in retailing. I’ll take WH Smith as the worst offender. I want them to remove the candy-gauntlet through which I walk to the till. This absurd rat run takes up lots of space. And even when you get to the end, they make their staff ask every customer to buy a pound bag of sweets at the checkout. I dare say this has some apparent bottom line advantage, but it comes at a human price. It makes me feel embarrassed for the staff and I can’t imagine it does anything for their morale. And it means I avoid WH Smith like the plague whenever I can.

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