by Lisa Bodell for


Years ago, Southwest Airlines placed a bet on simplicity. While other airlines flew a variety of aircraft models, Southwest chose to build its fleet around a single model of plane, the Boeing 737. If one plane couldn’t make it to a destination on time because of a storm or maintenance issue, another plane could take its place, keeping the airline on time and saving it money.

Simplification made the airline easier to run, more flexible, and better able to meet the needs of customers—and Southwest isn’t the only transportation company to harness the power of simplicity. In 2013, General Motors consolidated and simplified its brand lineup, dropping its Pontiac, Saturn, and Hummer divisions. The elimination brought real benefits, helping the company save as many as 1.2 million jobs.

While GM and Southwest are examples of operational and brand simplicity, any simplification tactic that makes a company nimbler, more efficient, and faster gives it a competitive edge. The company that can quickly adapt to new conditions wins—and it’s easier to adapt when teams aren’t hindered by unproductive (and often unnecessary) meetings, e-mails, tests, approvals, and reports.

Through my innovation work at futurethink (and research for my new simplification book), I’ve identified proven ways to jumpstart simplicity. Of the following fourteen tactics, which ones address the biggest time-sucks or employee pain points in your organization?

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