I listen to podcasts of NPR's "Fresh Air" on my daily walks. The program on October 30 included an interview with Jerry Seinfeld in which he was asked why he ended his successful television series after nine seasons (when his ratings were still climbing). Seinfeld responded that making a movie 15 minutes too long can turn it from great to average. He also opined that the Beatles might not have been considered so great if they had not quit abruptly in 1970.
That "less-is-more" idea applies in leadership and business situations.
For example, a great question can be made weak if it goes on to long:
- Great question: "What's next for you?"
- Weak question: "What's next for you? I mean, are you going to quit, or do you think you can do this, or do you need help? What's really important to you?
- Great question: "What one thing would make our customer experience better?"
- Weak question: "What one thing would make our customer experience better? Do we need cleaner restrooms, or better products, or nicer people? Which one is it?"
And a great product can be ruined by complexity. Cell phones are typically flawed in this way, I think. I want a phone and a way to get email when I'm away from the office. But cell phone manufacturers have loaded in a bunch of stuff I don't want or need: a lousy camera, music player and so on. These extras add cost and complexity, and reduce reliability.
With questions, just ask a simple question and await the answer. Don't add multiple choice options, or explain why you asked. Just ask and wait.
With products, start with the minimum design necessary to solve the customer's problem. Don't add beyond that unless the addition is justified by the customer's willingness to pay for it.