Earlier this week I listened to Alon Cohen, the co-founder of Houzz (via the Entrepreneurial Leaders Podcast I mentioned here), talk about his career experiences and lessons learned. A core theme, as well as the title of his talk, was “Making Complicated Things Simple” – which I think is a characteristic of many great products (like Houzz), and also of mastery more generally. Simplicity can be borne from ignorance or misunderstanding, of course, but the simplicity that results from putting in long hours wrestling with a problem is powerful.
Some of the major blessings and curses of this technological era are the explosions of data, information sources, and options. Never before have we had access to so many resources to solve problems and learn. The costs of this abundance are the ever increasing demands on our time – more choices and more noise to filter through. Now, more than ever, simplicity is an important component of excellence. Products and experts that help us focus on what matters create significant value – whether it be through interaction design (e.g., Uber’s two taps to book a ride), simplifying workflows (e.g., Mark43‘s tools for police departments), or creating frameworks to help us understand the world and make otherwise ambiguous decisions.
On the product front in Chicago, SMS Assist reduces the complexity of facilities maintenance for companies with a national presence, and Sprout Social helps companies manage social media presences at scale. On the expert front, Warren Buffett’s annual letters lay out the frameworks through which he simplifies the world. Clay Christensen’s Innovators’ Dilemma gives us a way to understand the complex topic of why incumbents often struggle to fend off disruptive startups.
As we build products and careers, I think the question implied by Alon’s talk is a good one to ask ourselves – how am I helping to create the right kind of simplicity? Would love to hear your thoughts – reach out here.
H/T to Heinz Marketing for the image.