The Importance of Simplification

Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia

In 1890, a Chicago-based traveling salesman named Whitcomb L. Judson was hard at work on his second career as an inventor. At the time, most of his patents were for railroad-related inventions, few of which had any impact on anything. Undeterred, Judson began work on a device he believed had the potential to completely replace shoelaces, something he called a “clasp locker.” For years he labored to develop a working prototype, finally perfecting an instrument in which interlocking male and female teeth could be engaged or disengaged easily with the pull of a coupling unit. By the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, he was finally ready to present his newest achievement, a device that would eventually come to be known as the zipper. After a few minor improvements, Judson’s invention quickly became the de facto fastener for everything from pants to suitcases.

The point of this story is that the inventions that succeed are the ones that simplify our lives. Whitcomb L. Judson had 14 patents, but he isn’t remembered for his “pneumatic street railway.” His lasting legacy is our ability to zip up our jackets without even thinking about it. Simplification changes how we do things. From coffee percolators to remote controls to microwave ovens, we gravitate towards products that make our lives easier. The enormous success of Apple and the company’s line of intuitive products speaks to this fact.

More often than not, the competitiveness of the business world serves as a big motivator for simplicity and innovation. Before PCs became standard-issue across America’s homes, they were being used in offices to send emails, write documents, craft charts, and more. Today’s innovations are tomorrow’s ubiquities.

I think that video conferencing will join that list of items so commonplace that it seems impossible the world ever got along without them and that’s due to the fact that they’re easier to use than ever before. Gone are the complicated installs and set-up requirements, the complex instructions only a tech genius can understand. Now, with the push of a button, you can instantly communicate with a colleague half the world away, interact face to face on your iPad or simply keep in touch with the office while you’re away. Documents are easier to share and you don’t have to press a million buttons to initiate a multi-party conference call.

Get ready for a change in the global workplace.  The simplicity of a new generation of video conferencing technology is revolutionizing the way many companies do business. Is your company next?

— Dan Lothringer
Dan is a contributing writer for

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