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With one lower case ‘i’, AP­PLE changed the world. TWENTY years on, the BRAINS be­hind that move is still ex­tolling the virtues of sim­plic­ity.

Ken Se­gall is the man re­spon­si­ble for one of the most recog­nis­able brand­ing ini­tia­tives of the last cen­tury. Yet he is quick to down­play the fact that he gave the tech­nol­ogy world a new vo­cab­u­lary, sim­ply by nam­ing Ap­ple’s come­back com­puter the iMac.

“In the scope of world is­sues it’s a tiny achieve­ment,” he says, laugh­ing. “But, I humbly ac­knowl­edge that I am re­spon­si­ble for the ‘i’. It was more of an ex­er­cise in logic than real cre­ativ­ity: ‘i’ for in­ter­net and ‘Mac’ for Mac­in­tosh.”

The ad ex­ec­u­tive was work­ing at an ad­ver­tis­ing agency in Los An­ge­les when his name was put for­ward to man­age the ac­count of a strug­gling tech­nol­ogy com­pany called Ap­ple. It was 1997 and Steve Jobs had re­cently re­turned to the com­pany.

“The first thing he did was get peo­ple work­ing on a new com­puter for the home that would get Ap­ple back into prof­itabil­ity,” says Ken. “There was a name he was hot on – the Mac Man. We were all aghast! So, he gave us a week to come up with a re­place­ment.”

Over the next seven days his team cov­ered walls with po­ten­tial names. His ‘iMac’ idea was one of the first that ev­ery­one in the team agreed upon – but there was a prob­lem.

“Steve hated it,” says Ken. “We showed him five names and he hated them all. We came back a week later with more sug­ges­tions and he didn’t like them ei­ther. So, I pulled iMac out of the bag again.”

This time around, for what­ever rea­son, Ap­ple’s co-founder was a lit­tle more re­cep­tive. “A cou­ple of days later he put the name on a ma­chine and showed it around,” says Ken. “It must have passed the test, be­cause it be­came iMac.”

Since that day, Ap­ple has ap­plied the same for­mat to the names of some of its most fa­mous prod­ucts – the iPhone, the iPod, the iPad, iBooks and iTunes. And Ken spent the next sev­eral years work­ing along­side Steve Jobs, both at Ap­ple and NeXT (Steve’s other com­puter com­pany, which merged with Ap­ple in 1996). He over­saw Ap­ple’s fa­mous ‘Think Dif­fer­ent’ cam­paign, helped launch the

It was hard not to be IN­SPIRED by Steve [Jobs]’s love of sim­plic­ity. It was IN­CRED­I­BLE to be a part of.

first iPod, and cre­ated magic with the tech brand’s defin­ing el­e­ment: sim­plic­ity.

“It was hard not to be in­spired by Steve’s love of sim­plic­ity,” says Ken. “He turned an un­fo­cused or­gan­i­sa­tion into a place where ev­ery­one un­der­stood the jour­ney ahead and the part they were to play. He sim­pli­fied the cor­po­rate struc­ture, he sim­pli­fied the prod­uct line and he sim­pli­fied the mar­ket­ing. It was in­cred­i­ble to be a part of.”

Now a public speaker and au­thor, Ken has writ­ten two books on this sub­ject, In­sanely Sim­ple and Think Sim­ple: How Smart Lead­ers De­feat Com­plex­ity.

“Sim­plic­ity is one of the most de­cep­tive con­cepts on earth,” he writes. “It’s ar­guably the most po­tent weapon in busi­ness – at­tract­ing cus­tomers, mo­ti­vat­ing em­ploy­ees, out-thinking com­peti­tors, and cre­at­ing new ex­pe­ri­ences. Yet rarely is it as sim­ple as it looks. Sim­plic­ity takes work.”

As well as draw­ing on Ap­ple as a role model, he has trav­elled the world in­ter­view­ing ‘agents of sim­plic­ity’ in the busi­ness sphere, from the CEO of Whole­foods to bankers, and even the Blue Man Group, an in­ter­na­tional per­for­mance art com­pany that has de­vel­oped a busi­ness plan to weed out com­plex­ity be­fore it is able to take root.

“It struck me that sim­plic­ity is a su­per pow­er­ful thing that is avail­able to ev­ery­one on earth,” he says.

“It doesn’t take any spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion. It’s a phi­los­o­phy and a method­ol­ogy, and it can be im­ple­mented at ev­ery level of an or­gan­i­sa­tion. It can trans­form a com­pany in­ter­nally and change the way it’s per­ceived by oth­ers.” In a busi­ness ecosys­tem where launch­ing more prod­ucts, em­ploy­ing more staff and hav­ing more pro­cesses is seen as a mark of suc­cess, is it time we ended the glo­ri­fi­ca­tion of com­plex­ity? Ken sees the merit in do­ing so.

“When Steve came back to Ap­ple he saw all the com­plex­i­ties – and cut through that stuff,” says Ken, who was a drum­mer and lyri­cist be­fore be­ing drawn into the ad­ver­tis­ing in­dus­try. “He killed all the com­mit­tees. Ap­ple made 25 prod­ucts and he killed 23 of them. I de­scribe it as a child­like ide­al­ism of how a com­pany should run.” >

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