If you don’t know Miffy, you should. Your toddlers will thank you for it, that’s one. But what’s even better is that understanding her has the power to transform your company. Dick Bruna has sold over 85 million copies of books about the small female rabbit Miffy for a reason. Well, for two reasons, actually. Extreme simplicity and extreme customer centricity.
Miffy is a “masterclass in minimalism” as The Independent calls her: shaped out of a few lines and basic colours. The text - if any - is kept to a bare minimum, and capital letters are never used. Every superfluous line, detail or shadow has been cast away. This extreme simplicity is why she’s so successful: recognizable at the glance of an eye, simple to understand and easy to remember.
So. How does that translate to you? The way I see it, most companies struggle to do things that should in fact be easy. Let me introduce Joe as a case study. He has a brilliant idea. If we step outside our corporate biases, for a minute, the story should go something like this: Joe should be able to go to Joe II (can’t help it if the CEO has the same name – I go where the story leads me) and ask if he can try out his idea with his colleague Joe III (yes, I know…). CEO Joe II can only answer 2 things – “yes” or “no” – so his decision is quickly made. He says “yes”, and Joe I and III go to Finance Joe (that’s just his nickname, he’s actually called Albert) who gives them a budget and a timing and they start testing the idea. Simple, right?
Most companies overcomplicate their processes without even realizing it. Understanding that you do – most companies don’t – is already promising. Step out of your company groupthink and simplify: your org chart, your decision processes, your administration, your silos, etc. Whatever you do: Think Miffy. Kill your darlings. Kill useless habits. Leave the essence. And start small. Start with your own habits, for instance.
Extreme customer centricity
That’s just simplicity on the inside, though. How about your outside efforts? A surprising amount of companies create products and services with themselves, their processes and their margins in mind. It’s a dynamic that is very similar to Conway’s Law: “Organizations which design systems are constrained to produce designs which are copies of the communication structures of these organizations.” Translated to this topic: if your company is complex AND inside-out driven (both tend to go hand in hand), chances are that the user experience you offer will be as complex and a mirror of what YOU want, not your customer. Simply put (Yes, I do eat my own dog food ): if you are complex, your user experience is probably complex. Which means you are not thinking of your customer, but of yourself.
Always. Always. Always - I cannot stress this enough - look directly at your customer. That is another lesson to be learned from Dick Bruna’s Miffy. She is always “customer facing”, looking straight at the ‘reader’, even if the rest of her body is sideways when she’s walking. Apparently, that is one of the reasons why she’s such a hit, because she always looks toddlers in the eye.
Look at your customers, and listen to them. They will tell you that the outside world is already too full of information and too complex to handle, and they will do anything for a product or service that simplifies their life. Like those five 19-year-old boys from Brooklyn who were too lazy to phone their pizza delivery supplier and repeat their same order over and over (apparently they ate a lot of pizza). So they created the “Push for Pizza” app where they could order their favourite meal with just 1 push of the button. No wonder that a lot of commercial success stories have extreme simplicity integrated into their very core: Zappos, Nest, General Electric, Morning Star, citizenM, Kroodle, KNAB or Spotify. And Apple, of course (though I do realize that their company culture might not be the best example of simplicity – exceptions make the rule, right?), whose products, packaging, shops and everything that goes out is an elegy to minimalism.
In fact, extreme customer centricity today equals extreme customer simplicity. Chances are, you’re not there yet, without even realizing it. If your customers need to fill in intricate contact forms to get you to do something, you are not genuinely customer centric. If you’re a hotel and tired tourists are waiting in line at your reception, you are not truly customer centric. (Yes, even if your personnel is uncommonly friendly.) If your user interface is so intricate that you need to train your clients to understand it, you are not really customer centric. As my nexxworks business partner Steven Van Belleghem tends to say “A user interface is like a joke, if you explain it, it does not work.” You see where I’m going?
Complexity spreads like a disease. If your company suffers from it on the inside, it will translate to the outside. And if it has, your customers will not stay, if they haven’t started leaving already. Simple is the new smart. Learn lessons from Miffy. You won’t last if you don’t.
Would you like to find out if nexxworks can help you redefine the experience of your customers? Contact email@example.com.
Image: PROHolger Ejleby (flickr)