Insanely Simple: A book review by Bob Morris

Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple’s Success
Ken Segall
Portfolio/Penguin (2012)

“I would give my life for simplicity on the other side of complexity.” Oliver Wendell Holmes

As Hannibal Lector explains to Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs, the Roman emperor and philosopher, Marcus Aurelius, endorsed the idea of focusing on the essence of a subject. The French later formulated the concept of the précis. Still later, Oliver Wendell Holmes observed, “I would not give a fig for simplicity on this side of complexity but I would give my life for simplicity on the other side of complexity.” All this serves to create a context, a frame of reference, for Ken Segall’s brilliant analysis of what drove Steve Jobs to create an insanely great company that continues to produce insanely great products.

As Segall explains, “Simplicity doesn’t spring to life with the right combination of molecules, water, and sunlight. T needs a champion – someone who’s willing to stand up for its principles and strong enough to resist the overtures of Simplicity’s evil twin, Complexity. It needs someone who’s willing to guide a process with both head and heart.” These are among the passages, themes, and concepts that caught my eye throughout Segall’s lively and eloquent narrative:

o  Standards Aren’t for Bending (Pages 15-16)
o  Small Groups = Better [Collaborative] Relationships (35- 38)
o  The Perils of Proliferation (52-54)
o  Thinking Different vs. Thinking Crazy (74-77)
o  Simplicity’s Unfair Advantage (93-95)
o  Never Underestimate the Power of a Word (123-125)
o  Death by Formality (132-135)
o  Technology with Feeling (138-140)
o  Ignoring the Naysayers: Inventing the Apple Store (180-184)

I have read all of the books written about Steve Jobs and Apple and reviewed most of them. In my opinion, with the exception of Walter Isaacson’s definitive biography, none provides a more thorough explanation of Jobs’s values, standards, and motivations than does this one. As Segall suggests, Jobs’s greatest achievement is that he “built a monument to Simplicity. Because Jobs invariably had the last word at the conclusion of conversations and meetings, it seems appropriate that he also have the last word now:

“Simplicity can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean 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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