Content Vs. Style, Complexity Vs. Simplicity

Started pondering the various swings in popular culture last night and the unintended consequences lots of little decisions make upon our lives. The biggest of these that came to mind are the various oxymoron’s that pervade our culture and thinking processes. The first of these examples is what Joseph Pine of Experience Economy and Mass Customization notoriety called out. We are moving to a culture of experiences and small personalization to establish our identities. A simple look around one see lots of individually customized devices, yet they somehow all look the same. In the mélange of customizations that our devices enable as a whole the look and behave relatively the same. In the sixties young people would state that everyone one looked the same in a suite and they were going to be different. I would hazard to say those “radicals” once they all got together all looked the same also. In the end the hippy cloths were just another uniform to identify with a community which yields a portion of someone’s identity.

This sounds rather harsh, inferring that people are shallow and only concern with style over substance. I look at what magazines, articles and media information is most popular should confirm that. I believe porn, celebrity news and fashion categories are still on the top of the most view information on the net. And if we go the point closer to the technology world, Apple, once considered a one the ropes and a technology simpleton (not my label but others who had branded them such) has emerged to be at the top of the capital pyramid above Oracle and Microsoft, all based upon Steve Job’s attention to style. If one strips down the latest Apple technology it is very basic, little room for variability most of the decisions are made for you. Yet consumers loved it because you could add little applets to personalize your experience. Apple even created an exchange, closed market, where you could buy customizations. Purchasing these provided an additional revenue stream above and beyond the original device. Think of this as the Printer Cartage market dynamic model converted to software.

Now the interesting hypocrisy of our thinking. Many love the ability to purchase and piece together just the applets we want for the experience, but when it comes to the Air Travel we’re upset with the unbundling of the services (e.g., Seats selection, Meals, Baggage, etc.) An interesting change of perceptions depending upon the context.

Now many would infer I’m unfairly beating up on Apple, calling their products simplistic and almost inferring they are toys. I will admit I have friends that are: Any Buddy but [IBM, Microsoft, Apple, Oracle, …] you put the company title in. I however look at the intention behind the result; make it achieve the function easily from the user’s perspective (i.e., simplicity). Having been in the complexity business for years –hopefully fighting against it, not fostering it—I’ll state a maxim that was once told to me be a mentoring engineer: “Complexity is easy, Simplicity is hard” Watching the evolution of devices from Apple I am impressed with their focus to that implied mantra “make it easy for the end user”.

With that little bit of insight, I wonder how much are we trying to do the same in our roles as of late vs. complicate things for other to make it easy for ourselves?


About briankseitz
I live in PacNW in a small town and work for Microsoft as a Enterprise strategy and architecture SME. I enjoy solving big complex problems, cooking and eating, woodworking and reading. I typically read between 4-8 business and technology books a month.

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