Simple Innovation

by Stephen Shapiro

Unlocking Perfection - Cleaning Michaelangelo's DavidAntoine de Saint-Exupery, author of “The Little Prince”, once said:

“Perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add but when there is no longer anything to take away.”

This is a brilliant quote because it describes the challenge many innovators face. Too often, new products are overly complex and end up ‘over-serving’ their customers.

My new computer with Vista and Office 2007 is a perfect example of that. 99% of the software’s functionality goes unused, yet these complexities slow down my computer and reduce ease of use. Being able to do everything for everyone is not perfection.

Next time you are designing a process, a product, or a service, ask yourself, “What can I remove?” For most consumers, simplicity is more important than comprehensiveness (and complexity).

The concept of ‘taking away’ is also a great time management technique. In addition to your to do list, be sure to create a ‘don’t do’ list. Become masterful at killing products, eliminating non-value adding tasks, and removing old/pointless habits.

Or, as Michelangelo once said:

“In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it.”

What are you doing that is imprisoning your perfection?


Stephen ShapiroStephen Shapiro is the author of three books, a popular innovation speaker, and is the Chief Innovation Evangelist for Innocentive, the leader in Open Innovation.

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