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Keeping it simple

Former Apple ad-man Ken Segall spruiks the power of simple with DBS students.

US creative expert Ken Segall, who has a long history in marketing technology with companies such as Apple and NeXT, recently returned to Deakin to explore the value of ‘simplicity’ in an exclusive presentation with the Deakin Business School (DBS).

An adjunct professor with DBS, Ken was a key player behind the iMac branding, Apple’s innovative “Think Different” campaign and has also worked with global brands including Intel, Dell, BMW and IBM.

Author of the best-seller Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple’s Success, Ken has recently written a follow-up book – Think Simple: How Smart Leaders Defeat Complexity – which chronicles the experiences of other global business leaders.

In his DBS presentation, Ken blended behind-the-scenes stories with contemporary business examples to outline the power of simplicity in driving business success. He also delved into his 12 years’ of experience working with Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.

‘I saw firsthand that Steve looked at everything through the lens of simplicity. His obsession with simplicity was not only visible in Apple’s products, but in the way the company organised, innovated, advertised, and bonded with its customers,’ he said.

Ken explained that once an organisation understands how simplicity has guided Apple’s success, there are no limitations to its potential.

‘In 1997, Steve returned to the company after 11 years in exile. Apple was only 90 days from bankruptcy. And we all know what happened next – he turned Apple in the world’s most valuable, successful organisations where everyone understood the journey and the part they played in it. He simplified the corporate structure, the product line and the marketing.’

He spoke of the science of simplicity by explaining the “theory of flow”, the importance of authenticity, and Apple’s highly-successful ‘Think Different’ campaign.

‘This was a campaign with no computers. It celebrated the lives of people who changed the world, who were admired by Apple and who revealed the spirit of Apple. It captured the essence of the company,’ he explained.

The ‘Think Different’ campaign was also accompanied by a simple set of Apple product choices. Offering too many product choices has a ‘dark side’, Ken advised.

‘It stifles the ability to make a decision…today [amongst its competitors] Apple still offers only three laptop choices. Of course these can be customised but no-one is complaining and no-one thinks Apple is not offering choices. It’s the perception of simple.’

He explained that most businesses have the tools needed to achieve a simple, nimble operation and business owners should use them powerfully.

‘The bottom line is that being simple isn’t. It requires being a champion of simplicity and being a brutal foe of complexity. My favourite quote from Steve Jobs is that “simple can be harder than complex”… meaning you have to work hard to get your thinking clean and to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.’

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