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Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple's Success Hardcover – April 26, 2012

4.1 out of 5 stars 172 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Segall worked with Steve Jobs for 12 years, as creative director at Apple and NeXT Computer, and also spent time as agency global creative director at Dell, IBM, Intel, and BMW. As the man who came up with the iconic iMac name, which launched one of the most successful product lines in history, Segall played a pivotal role in reviving Apple from near death. His close working relationship with Jobs allows him to provide insight into how Jobs’ obsession with simplicity became the driving force that informs every decision the company makes to this day, from product design to advertising, even down to the packing boxes. Segall contrasts this Apple mind-set with those of companies like Dell, Intel, and Microsoft, where complexity and a dizzying array of product choices only serve to confuse and distract customers. His recounting of high-level meetings, ad campaigns, and product-naming sessions reveals much about how Jobs’ unyielding, brutally honest approach pushed aside rivals, teams of lawyers, and everyone else who said it couldn’t be done to remake Apple into one of the most admired and valuable companies in the world. --David Siegfried

Review

“A blueprint for running a company the Steve Jobs way . . . should be required reading for anyone interested in management and marketing.”

The Times (London)

“Gets inside Apple’s branding and marketing to explain its directness and power.”

Financial Times

“Required reading.”

The Observer

“Ken Segall has literally captured lightning in a bottle. Insanely Simple reveals the secret of Steve Jobs’s success with such clarity, even we non-geniuses can make use of it. Ken shows us how to cut through the cobwebs of fuzzy thinking, bureaucracy and mediocrity, and clearly see what’s most essential—and therefore most important.”

—Steve Hayden, legendary Apple creative director, author of the “1984” Super Bowl commercial

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Portfolio; 3/27/12 edition (April 26, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591844835
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591844839
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (172 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #697,556 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book needs a dose of its own medicine. The previously unpublished stories about Steve Jobs and Apple are real gems. But in much of the rest of the book, the author mostly invokes a silly narrative of battle between Simplicity and Complexity and falls back to insipid conclusions such as "Simplicity attracts" and "Simplicity has universal appeal". Well, of course. We don't need the author to persuade us of that.

The author compares Apple to companies like Dell and Intel, which have confusing product portfolios and marketing messages. But why do they? The author credits Steve's direct involvement in the creative process and lack of patience for big meetings and formal presentations. He explains that in a good working relationship, both sides are upfront and don't withhold problems from each other, and this creates the best results. Beyond that, there's not much more insight or deep ruminations about the nature of simplicity, which I would have appreciated. I know from experience [I worked at Apple during the second Steve era] that simplicity is rarely just a matter of wielding the Simple Stick, as the author seems to suggest. (Even when it is, it sure helps to be the CEO.)

I can imagine this book started out as a personal collection of Steve stories--for which I would have gladly given 5 stars. At some point, some publisher or marketing person probably decided that this book wouldn't appeal to the masses unless it were written as a management book, so as it stands, this book also tries to dispense business advice. A Steve quote (ironically, included in this book) comes to mind: "Get rid of the crappy stuff and focus on the good stuff."
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Format: Hardcover
As Hannibal Lector explains to Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs, the Roman emperor and philosopher, Marcus Aurelius, endorsed the idea of focusing on the essence of a subject. The French later formulated the concept of the précis. Still later, Oliver Wendell Holmes observed, "I would not give a fig for simplicity on this side of complexity but I would give my life for simplicity on the other side of complexity." All this serves to create a context, a frame of reference, for Ken Segall's brilliant analysis of what drove Steve Jobs to create an insanely great company that continues to produce insanely great products.

As Segall explains, "Simplicity doesn't spring to life with the right combination of molecules, water, and sunlight. It needs a champion - someone who's willing to stand up for its principles and strong enough to resist the overtures of Simplicity's evil twin, Complexity. It needs someone who's willing to guide a process with both head and heart." These are among the passages, themes, and concepts that caught my eye throughout Segall's lively and eloquent narrative:

o Standards Aren't for Bending (Pages 15-16)
o Small Groups = Better [Collaborative] Relationships (35- 38)
o The Perils of Proliferation (52-54)
o Thinking Different vs. Thinking Crazy (74-77)
o Simplicity's Unfair Advantage (93-95)
o Never Underestimate the Power of a Word (123-125)
o Death by Formality (132-135)
o Technology with Feeling (138-140)
o Ignoring the Naysayers: Inventing the Apple Store (180-184)

I have read all of the books written about Steve Jobs and Apple and reviewed most of them.
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Format: Paperback
I picked up this book with high expectations, but once I read half-way through, I was impatiently waiting for the end, and was relieved when I finished it.

Much of the book is unthinking adulation of Steve. I like and respect Steve as much as anyone, but I don't want read 200 pages of what comes off as a somewhat unthinking worship of the man. There's little new here for someone who has followed Steve's life, or read his stories, or read Walter Isaacson's book (which I recommend over this one any day). Speaking of which, there's none of the criticism of Steve that "Jobs" had, without which this book ends up sounding like one-sided fan worship, and not insightful at that, either.

The book has a little too much of "us vs them" undertones for my taste, as if it's from an Apple fanboy blog like Daring Fireball or Marco. By all means, point out where other companies fail, but don't be so disdainful of other companies.

Most of the chapters contain little substance and could just as well be expressed in a single page. The conclusion, where the author summarizes each chapter in half a page, is perhaps the most interesting part of the book. But even that was too long, to be honest.

The other flaw with this book (and I read this criticism elsewhere) is that it chooses one theme -- simplicity -- and attributes all of Steve and Apple's successes to it, in the typical MBA style. This is a stretch. One could just as well credit any of the other gifts Steve had for this -- one could image books titled High Standards, Taste, An Eye For Detail, How to Inspire People, etc.

Some of the author's conclusions are also open to debate with the passage of time and change of market conditions.
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