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Make it Simple

By Jennifer Doctor

This is a simple post about being simple.

I was thrilled and honored to have a visit by my good friend, Jim Holland, for the recent Product Camp in Minnesota. While he was here, he scanned my business book shelf and borrowed a book, my copy of Seth Godin’s Poke the Box.” Jim enjoyed the short read and wrote a nice blog post based on his learning from it; in exchange, he brought me a small token gift, a simple non-descript cube that has somehow changed my life.

The product is the One Less Drop by Heckler Design. What does it do? It’s a cord keeper for my iPhone (though I am sure it will work on other devices.) This 1 inch cube has two channels in it; one is on the top and one is on the bottom so I could manage two devices with one cube. By placing the cube on a table or desk, the channels hold your cords without letting them fall to ground. Brilliant.

What’s the use case? I keep a power cord for my iPhone on my nightstand, and I fumble around looking for that cord every night I don’t anchor it down with something – often it was a bedside book, the alarm clock, another knickknack – basically anything already on the night stand, or else I am fumbling around on the floor looking for the cord when I am tired and all I want is some sleep… and I do this all so I can simply plug in my phone to charge it up overnight. Now, this simple cube means no more fumbling around on the floor in the dark. Brilliant. Do you take your smart phone to bed and plug it in right by your side, so that you never miss a call? Am I the only one with a problem to solve here? I want to think I’m not.

I never thought a one inch square cube could make me so happy, yet I was very excited by this. Why? Because it solved a simple problem and, as a product manager, we are always searching for solutions. What did I learn from this cube’s design? A simple rule – sometimes the smallest aggravation can be solved by looking a simple solution. The solution doesn’t always need to be over-engineered just because “we can.”

In our world of developing products, we all too often look for elaborate solutions. And, worse yet, we put all too many features in our product hoping that it solves all the problems our market may face. What if we simply stepped back and tried to simplify our product instead of building it out to solve many of the world’s problems? Take a step back and look at your own product portfolio. Have you been trying to solve the world’s problems with everything you have added to meet everyone’s interests and desires; or, are you trying to simply solve the basic problem in the easiest and most basic manner? If you don’t know, ask the market and your customer how simply they want their problem solved. The simple way is always preferred.

I know that I will be sleeping better tonight knowing exactly where my iPhone cord is without having to fish around for it when I am exhausted. Thanks, Jim.


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