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Interview: Ken Segall

Peter Roper | Feb. 24, 2016
This wide-ranging interview with Ken Segall covers the insights on simplicity discovered while researching his second book and his concept of ‘dual DNA’ that stops simplicity being the default way of doing business… plus his thoughts on post-Jobs Apple and the rumoured car.

Choice is stressful.

There's a lyric in one of Devo's songs that says something to the effect of, 'Freedom of choice is what you got, freedom from choice is what you want.'

Nothing is true in extremes - people do need choice, and it's up to businesses to figure out how much choice they do need - but I think in many instances people do prefer freedom from choice.

These are the little things about human behaviour and human preference that I think a lot of companies just don't think about, because there is a perception like, 'We're selling a lot of this one product, so if we make five other models, we'll sell even more of them,' and it's not necessarily true.

I guess I learned this from Steve Jobs. I hear things like that and I just find it hard to believe them. How many parts are there really on a computer? Why can't you just say, 'Here's a great laptop and you can buy it for the home or the business or whatever.' We're all human beings and I'm working in my office. I want a cool computer. It makes me feel better about my job.

You mentioned Steve Jobs and the common sense, or the uncommon sense in business. In terms of leadership, do you think it always needs someone in a really strong leadership position, really determined to make that work in a business?

That's a question I have heard, and it's a tough one to answer, because an awful lot of the good things that have happened at Apple were the result of one guy being really strong. It was an interesting thing, because he demanded creativity. So when you went to see him, even if you were an engineer, designer or advertising person, you didn't want to just give him what he was expecting. You did want to surprise him, but at the same time, you didn't want to go against the vision, or risk setting him off in some way, because he had that volatile personality.

That's not the case in every company [but] you do need a champion: someone who's not going to compromise, and keep everyone focused and have a sensibility. I think a lot of people don't have the awareness of the power of simplicity. A lot of people just churn out work and don't really think about that angle, so that's the job of management to guide people. You need strong guidance to achieve the benefits of simplicity, because people left to their own devices will screw things up.

I have a new concept brewing too, which is called 'dual DNA'. I think human beings have this double-sided, double-edged sword, I should say. I think it is in our DNA to prefer simpler things. I think that's a given. If you have two ways to get to the same place, and one way is more difficult, you choose the simpler way. Common sense.

 

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