How Apple’s “Little” Approach Leads to Big Wins

A central principle that underlies Apple’s amazing success is a commitment to “less is more” – relentlessly pruning its offerings to make decisions easier for customers, and making those projects that do make the cut into the best products possible. This is harder to do than it sounds; most companies give in to “feature creep,” which results in bloated, confusing products.

Start with the discipline that puts the focus on fewer products made better. While conventional wisdom and common practice drive most of its competitors to ever-greater product proliferation, Apple keeps its offerings pruned, invests more in the creation of each new product, and hence makes products that work better for customers.

For customers, that focus simplifies choices. Although conventional wisdom holds that it’s always better to have more choices, this is true only up to a point. Research shows that, given too much choice, consumers are less likely to buy anything at all, and if they do buy, they are less satisfied with their selections. Doing little and more seems to be a good strategy when it comes to R&D, too, where Apple routinely under-invests in research and development compared to its peers in the electronics industry.

The author emphasizes that adopting Apple’s approach emphasizes saying “no” to many things, in order to focus on a handful of key projects and products. That requires a well-honed product development process that keeps the focus on the right criteria and makes wise trade-offs, in order to create products that delight customers.

Customer insight has to anticipate what customers will want, even when they don’t know it themselves. Unfortunately, you can’t figure this out by asking them; they just don’t know. This aspect of product development requires design thinking: Rather than focusing narrowly on products and their attributes, you have to look at the whole of the customer experience, what customers are doing before, during and after they use the product, and the contexts within which they use it. You must observe them empathically and interpret their actions.

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