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Simplicity: Working Smarter in a World of Infinite Choices Hardcover – 15 Feb 2000


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Perseus Books (15 Feb 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 073820210X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0738202105
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 2.8 x 23.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,107,882 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Bill Jensen is President and CEO of the Jensen Group (www.work2.com). Founded in 1985, this change-consulting firm helps Fortune 500 clients apply the principles of simplicity to business management and work design. He speaks and conducts workshops widely on changing how we work. He lives in Morristown, New Jersey. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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We've all experienced simplicity in our hearts, homes, and history. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 28 May 2004
Format: Hardcover
The thesis of this book is one that I love, and can relate to emotionally as well as intellectually. Work keeps getting more complicated, unless we keep simplifying it. At the same time, making work simpler is hard work. But it is work that Must Be Done!
The survey of problems in companies rings a bell because it parallels our own research on the stalls that delay progress in organizations of all kinds. Poor communication is the worst culprit. In extreme forms, that poor communication is complicated by difficulties in understanding that lead to misconceptions. Other human emotions and habits get in the way, too.
Jensen makes three very valuable points that you should learn if you want to be much more effective: (1) focus on what will make a difference (basically an application of systems thinking from The Fifth Discipline, etc.) (2) reorganize the processes in your company to make understanding of what needs to be done and the doing to be as simple as possible and (3) communicate much more effectively following 5 simple rules when your give and review assignments.
The strength of this book is that its appeal to the frustration that almost everyone feels related to complexity will help make people pay attention when they read the book.
The weakness of this book is that it is a tough read for a book on simplicity and simple communications. The book uses a variety of formats and displays to get the point across. To me it felt disjointed and scrapbook-like. If you like unusual formats, you'll love this book. If you like simple formats, you may find this one confusing and distracting. The pearls of wisdom are there, though, if you make the effort to wade through to get them.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 80 reviews
116 of 123 people found the following review helpful
Epiphanies Are Nice: Let�s Get Real & Basic 14 Feb 2000
By Tony DiMarco - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I look at some of these reviews and it sounds like Simplicity set out to cure world hunger and reinvent all work. Maybe for some people, it does that. Not me. I'm just trying to do my best each day, make a difference, and spend more time with my kids. And I love this book.
Here's my take: Buy enough copies of Simplicity for everyone in your company. Not because it'll cure all of today's complicated craziness. But because it's real. It's basic. It's common sense made unbelievably useful. The tools and ideas the author offers involve day-to-day challenges: How to communicate differently...(the behavioral communication model has already helped me immensely)...How to use time effectively. How to help others navigate all the noise.
Buy this book because, as Jensen says, it's about the most basic thing that ties all of us together. Each of us gets only 1440 minutes each day. Simplicity is about changing how you and I use those minutes.
50 of 57 people found the following review helpful
Simplicity is Business 2.0. GET IT ! 28 April 2000
By Thomas Dixon - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Building upon a previous review: This book is Cluetrain 2.0, Wheatley/Leadership 2.0, Petzinger/Pioneers 2.0, Tapscott/Digital 2.0, Godin/Permission 2.0! Yet Jensen isn't trying to create the "next big or new idea."
What makes Simplicity Business 2.0 is that it's practical. He takes many of the big ideas around us, and answers "where do we go from here?"
He details what we need to think about if we are to leverage the Net in a world that's already on choice and info overload. He covers how to communicate effectively, organize one's thinking for faster implementation, storytelling as a business tool, even how to listen and delete most of what is shoveled at us. Jensen also focuses on the needs of Net Geners -- what tomorrow's pioneers will demand of our organizations. The entire book is about what it will take get permission, time and attention from the people who do the day-to-day work.
Simplicity is about how our companies need to change so all our big ideas *actually work*. Buy one copy of your favorite new-big idea book. Get LOTS of copies of this book and give them to everyone you know!
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
A Swift Kick to the Head 6 Sep 2000
By Jean-Paul Voilleque - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Here are the top three reasons that you should buy this book:
1. You've heard a lot about making work simpler, but you don't have any idea how to put "simpler" practices into place. Jensen drops several bombs in this book, most of them in the form of great tools for anyone in a management position. The theory is outlined quickly and without pretense and then the tools hammer home the essentials. This book is very good at getting you to reevaluate you thinking processes immediately. Everyone from CEOs down to front-line managers will benefit from these tools.
2. Your formerly small, fast-moving new media startup is experiencing growing pains. That's the case in my company, where we've gone from 60 employees to well over 400 in the US. My outlook on the state of my company has expanded dramatically since reading this book, because it effectively diagnosed the key problem: the business strategy and company values have become divorced from the day to day activities of employees. Simplicity is a handbook for living by your values and getting through growth phases in an organization, on project teams, and everywhere else. Again, managers need this information, but so do employees, who will feel empathy with the data from Jensen's study and find ways to make their job easier in the short term, and tools to manage upwards and change the way things work in the organization in the long view.
3. You're tired of management/business books that simply spout platitudes. Jensen engages the reader with lots of different layouts and chapter summaries that inform without dumbing down. He's clearly got a line on multiple intelligence theory, because the book shakes up conventional data presentation techniques in favor of eye-catching (and therefore memory engaging) presentations. This book walks the talk by developing ways to make complex messages easily understandable.
The swift kick to the head, in my case, has helped me truly become more effective and to demand change from the leaders in my organization. I first checked this book out of a library but I now own a copy, and it's been read twice, dogeared and scribbled in. The fact that you can also go to the companion website to download the results of the study that formed the basis of the book is great for analytical types. Buy it, read it, give it to your CEO.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Simplicity is faster and drives better results 8 May 2005
By Michael Erisman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
What a tremendous overview of an important topic for all businesses. The book starts with some key points: Simplicity - the art of making the complex clear - can give us the power to get things done. This can be accomplished in a couple of different ways; Use time differently, and work backwards from what people (those employees closest to the customer) want. (Page 2). Throughout the book are direct challenges to senior executives to work hard at clarifying and respecting how the organization spends it's time.

One quote early in the book raises some key insights into how the organization really operates; "People tolerate management's logic, but they act on their own conclusions" (Page 14). Thus the necessity of simplifying the infinite choices facing your people everyday. "People, not programs, plans or technologies, make the final choices about what to do and how to do it". (Page 25)

One of the essential barriers to simplicity is ineffective communication. The book depicts such a stark reality, that I put the book down and pondered how often I do the very thing that creates complexity. The authors describe a well known problem: "Time pressure allows people to justify behaviors they would not accept from others. When people are in need of communication they want others to take the time to listen and create clarity meaning and connection. However when they are doing the communicating it becomes a matter of disseminating information and taking any available e-shortcuts". (Page 24). Ouch.

Another key to simplicity is getting people engaged, which gains their attention. One methodology depicted and outlined is how storytelling can engage your people. The keys in creating the similar process to a story can help a business translate images and insights into action by developing a burning platform, describing where we are, what success now will look like and where we are going (Page 91). Another really powerful set of tools.

"People have limitless capacity to work smarter, as long as what you build is user centered" (Page 109). This simple truth aligns the sections on how to work backwards by focusing on meeting the needs of workers and enabling them to control their work and improve results. However, most senior leaders I work with have a tremendous difficulty in letting go, and in doing so create more complexity and lower the overall organizational effectiveness.

The book is one of those which will remain on my shelf to refer to whenever I am leading change and trying to improve results through communication and improving processes. Far too many companies and senior leaders fail to understand the basics of human nature, and how powerful the focus on simplicity can be. Even the most basic opportunity, freeing up wasted time, can be like getting twice as many employees for free.

My only complaint of the book is rather ironic. At times the graphics and layout of the book itself was actually too busy and complex. It would seem that a book on simplicity would itself model this simplicity. However, in the overall view of how important these tools and ideas are, this is more of a minor annoyance than a fatal flaw. This is a great book, and anyone who leads a team or an organization will benefit from applying the concept of simplifying the organizational environment to improve speed and execution.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Great ideas in a tough to navigate format 15 Oct 2004
By Leo E. Walsh - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The best companies out there spend a lot of time talking to their customers. Focus groups, customer surveys and CRM/ One-to-One technologies are growing increasingly common.

Jensen takes this one-step further. Why not build a company that is easy for the front-line employees, who actually interface with your customers, to navigate? A common-sense, win-win scenario. The customers of a simplified business would happier because employees have relevant information at their finger-tips. Employees are happier because they save thousands of frustrating hours spent looking for the exact information they need. Indeed, Jensen advocates turning traditional strategy on its head. He foresees easy-to-navigate companies built from the ground up, merely overseen by executive "steering committees."

Easy-navigation is what Jensen calls "Simplicity." In fact, taming complexity by taking time to sift the important from the trivial grows more vital, and difficult to do, as our businesses grow larger. Because of this, most companies fall quite short when it comes to providing their employees with the tools needed to simply do their jobs. And Jensen does not stop at the theoretical, big-picture level, but presents some excellent tools to help think through these problems: "CLEAR," and "Simpler to Know, Feel, Use, Do and Succeed" are a couple of the most noteworthy.

Though I love Jensen's ideas, I have one major criticism: the book is, quite ironically, one of the most difficult to navigate books I have ever encountered. Side bars cut into text, without any warning, change in text font or background color. Two or three times each chapter, you are left hanging mid-sentence in the main text, while you read a related side-bar... only to forget what the main sentence was talking about. In fact, this caused me to shave the rating from five stars for the content to four for the entire package... and almost had me to three. I found the navigation that frustrating.

Still, I would recommend this book to almost everyone I know in business. The ideas are that good.
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