Book Review | Insanely Simple – The Obsession That Drives Apple’s Success | Ken Segall

What is it that Apple has or does that makes them so successful, so innovative? Yes, the organization was run by the genius that is Steve Jobs but Apple’s triumphant rise was greater than one man. Steve Jobs infused one important ingredient into the blood stream of the organization’s culture and into all of its products. This one important ingredient is what drove Apple to be one of the most successful brands of our generation and it can certainly be applied to any other. The ingredient is Simplicity and the author Ken Segall, an ad agency Creative Director who worked with Steve Jobs at both Apple and NeXT, recounts countless amazing stories that gives you an inside perspective to Apple and the genius behind it all in Insanely Simple – The Obsession That Drives Apple’s Success.

How many times have you heard the following?

  • That can’t be done because the process won’t allow it.
  • I wish we could do that but that idea would get killed due to politics.
  • Doing it would be easier and most effective but we’ve been doing it so long this way that it would be too hard to change it now.
  • That is an amazing idea to help customers but it would take too long to get approved through the organization.

The amazing thing about Apple is that he abolished all of the above. Steve was so involved in every aspect of the company and product that he would not allow the poison of ‘complexity’ to seep into his organization. His best weapon of choice to prevent it: The ‘Simple Stick.’

The ‘Simple Stick’

The ‘Simple Stick’ symbolizes a core value within Apple; the obsession to keep everything simple from its product, to its packaging, to its processes.  Simplicity is the reason why a 4 year old can use an iPhone or iPad.  Simplicity is the reason why customers were always put first and why amazing ideas were never buried in politics. As Steve said:

Simple 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.”

The Elements of Simplicity

This book is broken into 10 chapters; 10 elements of Simplicity.

1. Think Brutal

  • Standards aren’t for bending; honesty can be brutal but is needed and you must learn how to take a punch if you want excellence to rise to the top

2. Think Small

  • Build small groups of smart people; there is no room for the unnecessary; think big but act small and small is the ultimate efficiency

3. Think Minimal

  • The less the merrier; minimizing is the key to making a point stick; when in doubt minimize

4. Think Motion

  • Simplicity never stands still; the easiest way to screw up a project is to give it too much time

5. Think Iconic

  • Investing in the brand and the marketing of it will always reap rewards in the long run; how you portray your ‘enemy’ has a big impact on how your audience perceives you


6. Think Phrasal

  • Simplicity is singularity – human beings are naturally programmed to identify products by single words; never underestimate the power of a word

7. Think Casual

  • Complexity is perfectly capable of turning a briefing into a type of torture

8. Think Human

  • Win people’s hearts, get invited into their lives, delight them with your product and make your relationship with them uncomplicated

9. Think Skeptic

  • Take advice, not orders

10. Think War

  • Sometimes having an enemy and starting a war works to your advantage – just look at the Mac vs. PC campaign


Some companies strive to infuse simplicity within one part of the organization but that is where they fail because it must occur within the entire thing. It must be a company wide obsession. As Ken states, “…Steve’s greatest achievement wasn’t a Mac, iPod, iPhone or iPad. He accomplished something that no one had even contemplated before. Steve Jobs built a monument to Simplicity. That monument is Apple itself.”

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