Saturday, January 28, 2012

Review on “The Laws of Simplicity" by John Maeda

I'm pretty fussy when it comes to purchasing books from Amazon. I have two conditions before purchasing any books. 1) It has to have a rating of more than 4 stars, 2) It cannot have a rating of 1. (Shows you the influential power of online word of mouth recommendation, 90% of consumers will buy based on recommendations from family and friends. This number does down to 70% for recommendations from strangers, which in my opinion is still high) However, since this was a required reading for my digital marketing class, " I drank the kool-aid".

Having read other books written by Brian Solis, Larry Webber, Luke Williams and Chuck Martin in the last semester, I was expecting something amazing from John Maeda in "The Laws of Simplicity", especially since he is a Professor at MIT. Despite the weak reviews online from Amazon, I read the book with an open mind. I was even excited when I received it in the mail as the book was brilliantly designed. But as the old saying goes, "DO NOT JUDGE A BOOK BY IT'S COVER". Sad to say, I was disappointed with the book.  The goal of the book is extremely worthwhile: to promote simplicity. It tries to do so in a small book, about 100 pages in small sized pages. However it is a major EPIC FAIL. Let me quickly take you through what I felt for each chapter.

Chapter 1 + 2: Reduce + Organize
Maeda takes you through the idea of SHE and how that by reducing and organizing the buttons on the Ipod will lead to success. While this chapter may be one of the better chapters, I personally feel it is another way of describing disruptive innovation. Innovation is creating products that make our life easier. Think of the the iPhone with its touch screen technology and its latest function Siri. Cars like Audi, Mercedes and BMW, start up with push of a button. What about the iRobot Roomba that cleans your floor for you or one of my favorites Delta Faucet Touch-2-O technology that washes your hands without turning the tap on. These examples are created from disruptive innovation and shares the same concept John Maeda is trying to describe in both chapters.

Chapter 3: Time
Ultimately, with advances in new technology, time is saved and our way of life becomes much more convenient. Job done quicker = Convenience

Chapter 4: Learn
I agree with him that we need to continue to learn and that repetition makes us better at what we do, but I feel he is stating the obvious. This is the same theory as "10000 hours" as found in the book Outliers: The Story of Success written by Malcolm Gladwell. That is how professional athletes, dancers, businessman get good and what they do, through constant repetition.

Chapter 5: Differences
Simplicity needs to co-exist with Complexity. This is the same as saying, Good versus Evil, Ying and Yang, Black and White, North and South...etc. You get the point.

Chapter 6: Context
What I would like to have seen in this chapter is Maeda talking about how Context has replaced Content as King in this digital age as users of the internet start to mature and evolve. However he talks about nothing being an important something and goes back again to the law of differences covered in chapter 5.

Chapter 7: Emotion
Contradicts chapters 1 and 2 as he says  "More is better than less". 

Chapter 8: Trust
Stating the obvious that consumers need to trust you if they were to use your product .

Chapter 9: Failure
This chapter itself was a complete failure.

Chapter 10: The One
My favorite chapter and I felt this one made the most sense. Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful. I should have taken Maeda's advice when he said to read the first 3 chapters and skip to chapter 10 to save time. He goes over 3 keys away, open and power. Out of the 3 keys I relate to "open"  the best as businesses need to be more open or "transparent" if they are to succeed and remain competitive. The most transparent businesses will be the market leaders that will lead the industry into the next generation.

In conclusion, not only did Maeda keep repeating that he was from MIT, I found that Maeda used too many acronyms which were not meaningful and I felt were tough to remember. For example SHE (Simplify, Hide, Embody), BRAIN (Basics, Repeat, Avoid, Inspire Never) and SLIP (Sort, Label, Integrate, Prioritize). I also felt that he made too many generalized statements, and he supported them with anecdotes, and circumstantial evidence to illustrate the points he wants to make. He did a good job in conveying the idea on simplicity, as the simplest ideas are usually the ones that are games changers. Think LittleMissMatched that sells socks in 3's or Zipcar where you pay by the hour or Xbox Kinect where you are the remote control. 

Personally the internet and the inventions in the digital age have made our life simpler. We are now able to do things quicker than 10 years ago. However the downside to that is that we become over reliant on such technologies that we start to forget the "need to know" skills. Take writing for example. Because I do most of my work now typing and using the iPad and iTouch to browse the internet, my hand writing is comparable to that of a 10yr old kid. Even some of my professors that I have encountered in class have very poor hand writing and I do not blame them. C level executives also face the same problems as we are too reliant on technology.

Overall, 9 people have given this book a 1 star on amazon and I will be the 10th person to join the 1 star club. John Maeda may be a super bright person, but his talent is definitely not in writing.

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