Swiss Army Knife Innovation

Posted on May 20, 2012 by Josh Linkner

That ubiquitous red contraption contains just about every feature you can imagine.  A nail clipper, ice pick, and Philips screwdriver.  None of the individual tools are especially remarkable – you could buy a corkscrew that is higher quality and more beautifully designed – but all of these mediocre features are crammed into one product.

Swiss Army Knife

Is that what your company does?

Spending nearly every waking moment with entrepreneurs, a common mistake is to try to drive progress by adding product features.  Website isn’t attracting enough users?  Throw in an extra function to the site.  Mobile app missing revenue targets?  Must need some new bell or whistle.

I call this the Swiss Army Knife trap.  It’s the erroneous conclusion that adding more will create more, while the truth is that the best companies focus their energy on simplicity.

Apple is legendary for removing buttons and features to offer customers beautiful, simple, clean design.  A key reason Facebook crushed MySpace was their ability to offer an elegant, uncluttered user experience.  The best companies focus on having fewer product features, but having the ones that remain deliver something truly special.

Instead of adding yet another function or service to your mix, try the opposite approach.  Great sculptors throughout history believe that their work of art already exists within that giant block of granite. Their job is to remove the unnecessary rock to reveal their masterpiece.  Think about your own product or service.  What can you remove, streamline, or simplify to reveal an uncluttered work of beauty?  Create an offering that’s easy to understand and solves real customer problems in a remarkable way.

You’re far better off doing one thing really, really well than trying to toss in every feature imaginable.  Direct your creative energy toward being the best at something and making it so compelling that it can’t be ignored.  Too many ingredients in the soup makes it taste horrible… the same applies to your business.

It’s time to resist the diabolical temptation to add a toothpick, leather punch, or tweezers.  Stop worrying about adding new menu items and make sure you are delivering incredible value with your core offering. Your customers, investors, team members, and accountant will all thank you.

One Response to “Swiss Army Knife Innovation

  1. Yes! Less is best! I used to be a Home Organizer (mostly it was decluttering!!). One of my clients had beautiful antiques throughout her home, but with all the clutter, it was very difficult to appreciate the antiques. Here is another area, I am very hot about….BILLBOARDS!!!! As I am drive through my city on the interstate, I love to critique the billboards. Sometimes, they are so cluttered up with words, that I really have to refrain myself from calling the company to offer my advice on how to make their billboard “mo betta”. In everything….less is best! Thanks for the article. MJ