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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » Simplicity: The New Competitive Advantage in a World of More, Better, Faster » User review

Less Is More...and Often Better

  • Jan 30, 2000
  • by
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+5
As I first heard the story, a prominent venture capitalist was cornered at a party by an eager young entrepreneur who explained that he had a terrific idea and all he needed was "only" $10-million. The venture capitalist asked for his business card. "On the back of it, please explain why my firm should invest in your idea." Disbelief. "I can't possibly get it all down on the back of a business card!" Pause. "Then I'm sorry but I really don't think we have anything to talk about." Years ago, a journalist asked Katherine Hepburn to explain the success of her career. "Elimination." She had eliminated from her life everyone (including a husband with whom she remained close friends) and everything which interfered with her career. These two quite different situations illustrate, I think, the most important point in Bill Jensen's book.

He asserts that simplicity is "the new competitive advantage in a world of more, better, faster." It is certainly one of them. The book is divided into four sections:

The Aha (which includes a discussion of Simplicity's "Evil Twin")

Simpler WorkDays (eg using time, planning, contracting),

Simpler Companies (eg "designing work for easy navigation")

Simpler FutureWork (ie "changing how we structure companies")

Jensen concludes with an Epilogue in which he discusses "The Power to Do What's Important." I think this is a carefully-reasoned, though-provoking, and eloquent book.

One important point which some reviewers seem to have ignored is that Simplicity enables us to cope much more effectively with Complexity. Think about all the clutter you haul around in your mind; all the clutter piled up within your workstation and probably on your computer's hard drive; all the clutter your organization staggers and stumbles through each day. In any competitive environment today, change is the only constant. As one result, carefully crafted "long-range plans" can become irrelevant in a single day. Organizations are comprised of people; people, by nature, love to collect "stuff." Lots of it. Many of our accumulations (including business assumptions) no longer have value. Jensen correctly affirms the value of the "KISS Principle" to how we think. He understands that our values and perspectives generally determine how we behave. Obviously, it would be Stupid to Keep Everything Simple. But surely it makes sense, "in a world of infinite choices", to use Simplicity as a leadership tool to help us think smarter. I highly recommend this book to those who are determined to do so.

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review by . May 30, 2001
As I first heard the story, a prominent venture capitalist was cornered at a party by an eager young entrepreneur who explained that he had a terrific idea and all he needed was "only" $10-million. The venture capitalist asked for his business card. "On the back of it, please explain why my firm should invest in your idea." Disbelief. "I can't possibly get it all down on the back of a business card!" Pause. "Then I'm sorry but I really don't think we have anything to talk about." Years ago, a journalist …
About the reviewer
Robert Morris ()
Ranked #169
Professionally, I am an independent management consultant who specializes in accelerated executive development and breakthrough high-impact organizational performance. I also review mostly business books … more
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Wiki

Scary fact: Business information doubles about every three years. In other words, if your job is complex now, in three years you'll have twice as much noise to sift through just to get your work done. Bill Jensen makes no bones about it: Making a job simpler is very hard work, and it's getting harder all the time. But he believes it's possible, and inSimplicity, he lays out concrete steps for managers to follow. For example, he offers a five-step process for launching a new project: Know which few things are important; consider how people will feel when you move forward on these things; use the right tools; create expectations and then manage those expectations; and create a "teachable view" of what you're trying to achieve.

If you consider all five of these building blocks before launching a new project, you should be able to overcome one of the biggest problems workers have with their jobs: too much information, with too little filtering. In fact, Jensen says, about 80 percent of business communication--meetings, e-mails, presentations, whatever--has a major problem: the information doesn't require action, or it requires action but there are no consequences of doing nothing. These building blocks can be applied to every form of communication and, most important, can be used as a formatting device to describe projects from start to finish quickly on a single sheet of paper. That'll get anyone's attention, from the boss on down to the people who actually have to do the work ...

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Details

ISBN-10: 073820210X
ISBN-13: 978-0738202105
Author: William D. Jensen
Publisher: Basic Books

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