Book Review: Insanely Simple by Ken Segall

Ken Segall. Insanely Simple: The Obsession that Drives Apple’s Success. New York: Penguin Group, 2012. 225 pp. $25.95 (Hardcover), ISBN 978-1-59184-483-9

Ad agency creative director Ken Segall provides an inside look at Apple under Steve Jobs in his book Insanely Simple: The Obsession that Drives Apple’s Success. As the title suggests, Segall’s focus is on the business side of Jobs’s stint at Apple following his return in 1997. This is somewhat different from Walter Isaacson’s book, Steve Jobs. Issacson focuses more on the personal life of Jobs and how that came out in his professional life. Segall does not dwell on Jobs’s personal life, but instead focuses only on the businessman. This makes the two books go together very well. In fact, the stories within Segall’s book would have fit nicely into the Issacson’s work.

As the book’s jacket blurb suggests, “you’ll be a fly on the wall inside a conference room with Steve Jobs.” For those who have read about Jobs’s business style, that can either be incredibly exciting or incredibly terrifying, and Segall illustrates both. There is no doubt that Jobs could be a tyrant and that comes out in the book, but at the same time, he was extremely focused and that is part of what made Apple successful. Being the “fly on the wall” is the greatest values of this book. The inside story of how two companies interacted. The stories of how Steve Jobs ran every aspect of Apple.

The books title, Insanely Simple, suggests that the the argument of the book is about Apple’s focus on simplicity as a market and business strategy. This is certainly not a new concept, but it is an interesting topic to cover. Segall was present at the creation of this strategy as Jobs returned to Apple in 1997 and clearly outlines its development. Simplicity is certainly a central feature of all Apple products. Jobs’s goal was to make a product as easy to use as possible, and he often succeeded. Whether it is the Mac or an iOS device, the goal was the same for both. At times, the stories are more about Steve Jobs then they are simplicity, but Segall has clearly contributed to the overall understanding of Apple and Steve Jobs.

The reader is taken on a journey through some of the greatest business decisions. Segall’s insights and unique view, he did name the iMac after all, make this book worthy of sitting on a shelf next to Isaacson’s. The book’s title is a bit deceiving as it is more about Steve Jobs and his obsession with simplicity. A concept that Apple had not embraced while he was absent. Overall, Segall writes a solid narrative and I recommend the book to anyone who wished that Isaacson had highlighted more of Jobs’s business savvy.

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