Sesame Street Simple

As an antidote to what I’ve described, lots of businesses and consumers have generated a groundswell of enthusiasm for simplicity—in products, in lifestyles, and in operations. Former P&G chairman A. G. Lafley memorably describes this as the move to Sesame Street Simple. The successful companies (and political units) of the present and near future are those that delight and simplify choice for the harried and stressed-out consumer—as Apple has done with a truly beautiful-to-behold product line small enough to be laid out on a single table. Behavioral scientist Barry Schwartz at brainy Swarthmore College outside Philadelphia has closely studied what he appropriately calls the “Paradox of Choice”: how an excessive abundance of choices and options in every aspect of life—from the mundane to the momentous—causes anxiety, creates perpetual stress, and actually diminishes our sense of well-being. The best companies of our time already get this, and help edit and curate their offerings so the consumer doesn’t have be overwhelmed or spend vast amounts of time sorting through every possibility. Those selling products and services that remain stuck in a world of paralyzing options, clunky design, cumbersome movement, discomfort, and pure drudgery will increasingly be toast.

Sir Martin Sorrell, the man who built the WPP Group into the world’s most potent force in marketing services, makes the case in fewer than 20 words: “… We live in an information-rich world. Make something ...

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