Just because something is simple does not mean that it is easy to do.
Similarly, just because something is complex does not mean it needs to be hard.
Complexity and ease are often confused in innovation, both in design and in problem finding stages. But they are two fundamentally different aspects of a solution which exist on a spectrum, and can be mapped on a 2×2 matrix like this:
Some of the best innovations are the result of taking all sorts of activities and making them easier to perform.
Ease is determined by the amount of cognitive effort which someone needs to invest in doing the activity. And people are much more likely to perform an activity or use a service if it requires the least amount of mental effort.
It is important to understand though that just making something simple does not automatically make it easy. A classic example here is losing weight. The way to do it is simple: Take in fewer calories (eat less) and burn more calories (move more). But just knowing this information does not make it easy for most people to do. Many people still feel like changing their habits to achieve those simple changes is hard, and the easiest thing to do is not change.
At the other end of the spectrum are complex challenges. Complexity often requires elaborate knowledge about how multiple aspects of a system work together, and then ensuring that required steps are executed in a correct order. This knowledge is built up over time and experience, meaning people new to a process often cannot perform it themselves and achieve the potential benefits of the system.
A wonderful way to innovate is to look at challenges which are either hard or complex, and finding ways to make them easier. Not just simpler, but easier.
Nowadays, thanks to technology and automation, things which only a few years ago were incredibly complex are now incredibly easy to do. A few examples are:
- Real-time language translation over videoconferences, without understanding the other language
- Low-cost, regular investing in the stock market, without having studied economics or accounting
- Designing web pages using drag-and-drop templates, without having to learn how to code
So when looking at your own innovation ambitions, what do your target customers perceive as hard or complex to do, and how can you make that easier?
And if you look at your own process, services and products, how can you make it as easy to do business with you as possible?
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