In a recent article for LinkedIn, best-selling author and CEO of Likable Local, Dave Kerpen, points out 11 simple concepts that every business leader can use to become a better leader. He emphasises that all of them are simple. "Yet, perhaps in the name of revenues or the bottom line, we often lose sight of the simple things," he says.
Two qualities on his list are adaptability and simplicity, and both are closely intertwined. Says Richard Firth, CEO of MIP Holdings, adaptability is essential for today's business to survive.
"Each item on Kerpen's list of essential concepts for business leaders can be strategically enhanced by the judicious use of technology. Some technological innovations have encouraged personal adaptability while making life a bit harder for organisations. The iPad didn't even exist five years ago, yet today armies of them are putting pressure on IT infrastructure everywhere. Today's business leader needs to be adaptable, particularly in the use of technology."
Firth says that, as the marketplace gets faster and faster, only those companies that can adapt to it will survive.
"Adaptability does not necessarily mean changing the core business. But it does mean that when customers choose different channels to communicate with you, then you can cope. It means that if your market evolves, your business can take advantage quickly with new products and services."
Adaptability is closely tied to one of the other concepts Kerpen notes: simplicity.
"What customers often respond to best is simplicity — in design, form and function," says Kerpen. "Taking complex projects, challenges and ideas, and distilling them to their simplest components, allows customers, staff and other stakeholders to better understand and buy into your vision."
Firth says this means companies should seek simplicity wherever possible.
"As we all know, technology in and of itself is not a simplifying force. It must be bridled. New projects should be as simply designed as possible. Back-end processes should be as simple as possible. Technologies that introduce complexity should be treated with caution and preferably rejected in favour of those that are simpler, even though they may have less functionality. When existing technologies have become overly complex and brittle because of the layers of special cases and functions they have accreted, they should be replaced with simpler alternatives."
The app development methodologies preach simplicity when designing an app, he adds. This is a blessing in disguise, as forcing developers to make things simple allows apps to perform over varying speeds of networks. It also feeds into the requirement for the app to suit users of varying levels of technological capability. Business leaders need to strive for this simplicity wherever they can, he says, knowing that, paradoxically, it's hard work.
"Fighting for simplicity is not easy. In new product development, every single early decision can have an effect on the management and cost of the final result. If the business leader encourages simplicity at this early stage, a development team can change course mid-stream far more easily."
Kerpen says this focus on simplicity must be inculcated because, ultimately, customers are all human.
"We humans all crave simplicity, and so today's leader must be focused and deliver simplicity," he concludes.