Monday, May 18, 2009


Interview with Matthew Mays by Guy Kawasaki

Question: How do you define elegance?
Answer: Something is elegant if it is two things at once: unusually simple and surprisingly powerful... At first glance, elegant things seem to be missing something.

Question: Which companies are your favorite examples or elegance?
Answer: Toyota is one. With Scion, they refused to advertise, and they drastically reduced the number of standard features to allow Generation-Y buyers to make a personal statement by customizing their cars. The Scion xB flew off the lot when it came out.Another example is the British bank, First Direct. It is branchless and became the most highly recommended bank in the United Kingdom. Then there’s the French manufacturing company FAVI that realized better employee relations when they eliminated their human resources department. W. L. Gore and Associates completely eliminated job titles and typical corporate hierarchy in order to release the creativity of its staff employees. And finally there’s always the usual suspects like the Google interface and Apple’s clean design. But my all-time favorite is In ‘N Out Burger. a freakishly popular hamburger chain that started in Los Angeles a half century ago, that has built its brand on the "less is more" approach with an interesting twist. The menu offers only five items: a hamburger, cheeseburger, double burger, French fries, and a short list of beverages. By keeping things simple, founder Harry Snyder says he is able to provide the highest quality food in a sparkling clean environment.

Question: What’s the first step a CEO should take to get her company on the right track?
Answer: ...Steve Jobs revealed that a "stop-doing" strategy figured centrally into Apple’s approach. What he said was: "We tend to focus much more. People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of many of the things we haven’t done as the things we have done." That’s the mindset. And step one? Create a solid stop-doing list. Sounds simple, but few do it. Guru Jim Collins says you absolutely must have a "stop-doing" list to accompany your to-do list. As a practical matter, he advises developing a strong discipline around first giving careful thought to prioritizing goals and objectives, and then eliminating the bottom 20 percent of the list. If as CEO you do that, and demand that everyone do that, including designers and engineers with respect to the stuff they’re building, your ugly crap quotient goes way down.

Question: Why do you think the Japanese have such a way with elegance?
Answer: [First is Zen, and one of the fundamental Zen aesthetic themes is emptiness, and second] ...kaizen — continuous improvement. It means "no best, only better."... To stop improving was to stagnate—which was to die. It was a war on all the things that make for crap: overproduction, overprocessing, defects, conveyance, unneccessary motion, inconsistency, and inventory. In short, Japan HAD to get elegant. They’ve never forgotten how they did it, and they’ve institutionalized it.

No comments: