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Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple's Success Paperback – 7 Jun 2012

4.2 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Portfolio Penguin (7 Jun. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670921181
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670921188
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 1.7 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 290,454 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

A blueprint for running a company the Steve Jobs way ... should be required reading for anyone interested in management and marketing (The Times)

Punchy ... Segall gets inside Apple's branding and marketing to explain its directness and power (Financial Times)

Required reading (Observer)

About the Author

Ken Segall worked closely with Steve Jobs as ad agency creative director for NeXT and Apple. He was a member of the team that created Apple's legendary 'Think Different' campaign, and he's responsible for that little "i" that's a part of Apple's most popular products. Segall has also served as creative director for IBM, Intel, Dell, and BMW. He blogs about technology and marketing at kensegall.com/blog, and has fun with it all at scoopertino.com. Follow Segall on Twitter: @ksegall


Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is perhaps the one management book which has really resonated with me since Don Peppers and Martha Rogers' The One-To-One Future. Let's face it, that's not great: that was published in 1996.

I'm old enough to have worked for organisations both large and small - as an employee and as an outside supplier. It can be frustrating to be working for an organisation that has a core of brilliance but somehow can't get things done - this book explains the one simple reason why this is often the case: they can't do things in a simple way.

The book's author, Ken Segall, worked as a marketing provider to Apple - and, at the same time, Intel, Dell and other large IT companies. It's essentially the story of what makes Apple such a force to be reckoned with - but isn't merely a sanctification of Steve Jobs.

Yes, Steve is mentioned aplenty and is usually the centre of the many examples given. But while it touches on many of the facets of Steve's character which made him so successful, it focuses on one thing which almost anyone can do to improve their business - yet, will find an incredibly difficult and elusive concept to implement: simplicity.

Steve was often regarded as ruthless. Although there's some truth in that, it's probably better to say that he was single-minded. He wanted to get things done - and he often wanted to get them done fast. He didn't like to hear the word `no'.

Well, we've all worked with managers who think that's the right way to move a company forward, that without their aggression, people simply wouldn't do their best. Steve's single-mindedness wasn't like that. He often knew that there was a better way and he provided a means to get there. He demanded simplicity.

Steve himself said that simplicity is hard to achieve.
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For me the test of a good business book is whether it gives me some inspiration and ideas for applying in my own work / business. By this measure "Insanely Simple" is a great business book. Although the examples are, well, simple, it had my synapses firing over and over again with ways to apply the messages in the book. Simply the best business book I have read for a long time.

Ken Segall makes a strong argument that one of the keys to Apple's success is a fierce adherence to the custom and practice of Simplicity. To back this up he takes 10 facets of simplicity and uses a story from his history with Steve Jobs and Apple to illustrate each point. He uses stories from his experience with Dell, IBM and others to show what happens when you embrace complexity instead. The book is simple, the stories fascinating but it's enough to provoke a lot of serious thought about how you run your business and whether making it simpler would make it more effective.

For students of Jobs it's also a useful book, one of the first written by a close insider who can explain a little of HOW Jobs was able to both inspire fierce loyalty and demand freakishly high standards. Segall also makes good case for much of Jobs behaviour being reasonable when viewed in context of what he wanted to achieve. In this respect it's a much better book than the relentlessly tabloid approach taken by Walter Issacson in Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography.
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As an insight into the company this book is great, especially after reading Steve Jobs' biography by Walter Isaacson recently. There are many anecdotes from Segall throughout focusing mainly on advertising, but some insights into design are given too. These fill in some of the gaps around the story told in Isaacson's book which is nice.

After reading this book it has resonated with me, and I do think about what I have read in this book in my day job. It's quite inspiring, and if the company I worked for took on a little more of Job's attitude we would all work a lot faster.

However this book is frustrating at times. With almost every point made, the author feels he needs to explain how this point links perfectly back to simplicity which quickly becomes tedious. These 5-10 lines read like an essay a 16 year old might write. The points made are mostly sound but I can see the simplicity in the points for myself; it doesn't need explaining every single time especially as each section is so short and the point is made essentially twice. It's like someone explaining a joke when the punch line is obvious; it just isn't required. I think the author needed to have a little more faith is the intelligence of the reading audience. In addition, the capitalisation of the 'S' in simplicity throughout the book is just strange.

More annoying is that the links back to simplicity become ever more tenuous as the book goes on. For example, Segall says that the product names of Dell (Vostro, Latitude, Precision) are confusing in terms of understanding the walk up the range. Yet he claims that Apple's iPod range is a bastion of simplicity with Shuffle, Nano, Touch and Classic. Sorry, no. That is not a valid point as the same issue exists with both Dell and Apple there.
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I bought this book at the airport, gave my copy away to someone in a cafe, then re-bought here. I have read the other reviews, and can understand some giving it 3 stars, but for me it's 5. Some say it's repetitive, or the author explains the obvious. Well, with a subject as important as defining the essence of your business and products, that is no bad thing.

I already believe in the power of simplicity, and reading about a company that aspires to this provided me with insights and ideas for my own company. As one reviewer said, their synapses were firing. Yes, the insights may be obvious, but only obvious once you know them. I'm not an Apple fan in normal life, and don't care about learning about Steve Jobs, but I do care about simplicity as the guiding light in my business, and in that respect, this book is great.

If you've read lots of books and have them on bookshelves somewhere (I will go digital soon...), how many of them can you look at and sum up in a sentence or two a number of years after reading them? I think this one will stand the test of time:

Complexity creeps in unnoticed, until it strangles the good work. Be aware of this, and always look to simplify.
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