The Takeaway: Whether it's a mission statement, a strategy, the formulation of a goal or a product design, May argues you should aim for elegance in your ideas. First things first, what exactly does he mean by the term? "Something is elegant if it is two things at once: unusually simple and surprisingly powerful. One without the other leaves you short of elegant," he says. Great, so why is this quality so important?
Elegance cuts through the noise, captures our attention, and engages us. The point of elegance is to achieve the maximum impact with the minimum input. It's a thoughtful, artful subtractive process focused on doing more and better with less.
Certainly it's easier to remember an idea that's short and punchy and minimalist products â€" think of all those little iPods nestled in everyone's pocket or purse â€" certainly seem to earn consumers' loyalty and love, but have other companies succeeded by focusing on elegance? May offers the surprising example of "freakishly popular" hamburger chain In N' Out Burger â€" an establishment not usually associated with elegant dining. He explains:
The menu offers only five items: a hamburger, cheeseburger, double burger, French fries, and a short list of beverages. By keeping things simple, founder Harry Snyder says he is able to provide the highest quality food in a sparkling clean environment.
In 'N Out understands that seduction, and that subtraction can simply mean "not adding." By resisting formal menu expansion they've avoided the self-defeating overkill seen in consumer electronics, with its "feature creep," and the resulting "feature fatigue.
Microsoft Word, famous for its seemingly endless features most users never needed nor wanted, is cited as a classic example of a feature fatigue inducing product, but how many managers have induced a similarly sleepy feelings in their teams by failing to reduce their aims down to a simple, streamlined and compelling idea and instead throwing a messy list of duties, goals and responsibilities at their employees?
(Image of In N' Out Burger menu by marceatsworld, CC 2.0)