No, that isn’t a typo in the headline. Less is Moore is the title of an editorial leader column in today’s Economist.
In a timely piece, the article says that we are now seeing a rapid increase in interest in products and services that apply the flip side of Moore’s Law: namely, that instead of providing ever-increasing performance at a particular price, they provide a particular level of performance at an ever-lower price. The Economist describes this phenomenon as “good enough” computing. Examples cited include netbooks, virtualisation and software as a service (SaaS). Moore’s law hasn’t gone away, it’s simply that “more people are taking the dividend it provides in cash rather than processor cycles.
The whole “less is more” (normal spelling) principle is hardly new – but its application is being seen in a variety of perhaps novel areas. Take software development. I’m a big fan of 37Signals, the makers of low cost, SaaS software apps. A couple of years ago, they produced an excellent PDF book called Getting Real. Although ostensibly about software development, as the authors themselves say, the basic principles can be applied in a host of other areas – including PR and social media.
Taking some of the chapter headings as an example, Getting Real is about:
Small teams, rapid prototyping, expecting iterations, etc
Build less, focus on the problem, not your ideas about the problem.
Less features, less options, less people and corporate structure, less meetings and abstractions, less promises.
Constraints forcing creativity. Constraints force you to get your ideas out in to the wild sooner.
Less mass (the leaner you are, the easier it is to change). Lower Your Cost of Change. Be Yourself.
Many of these themes appear elsewhere in the world eg Tim Ferriss’ Four Hour Week extolls the virtue of less is more ie cut down on the number of inputs to your life (e-mail, etc) and focus on quality output. This in turn is simply putting the 80/20 Principle into practice.
Charles Arthur at The Guardian has also pointed to a very timely interview with Clay “Here Comes Everybody” Shirky. In it, he makes some very good points about the fact that there is no such thing as “information overload, there’s only filter failure.” In other words, less is more.
Of course, you could argue that the “less is more” principle is related to the concept of “focus”. And just about every business book I have read in the last few years stresses the importance of focus. Trouble is, it’s easier to talk about focus than to do it. People generally don’t know what to focus on – or want some kind of reassurance that if they do focus on something, that it is the “right” thing to focus on.
Personally, I still stand by the late Sir Karl Popper when he said that we should give up the historicist notion of predicting the future and concentrate on solving problems. Choose the important problems to solve – personally and societally – and get on with it.
As management guru Peter Drucker once said: “The only advantage a corporation has over an individual is access to capital”. Of course, in today’s environment, even that advantage is removed.
The world of PR and social media thus has much to learn from the above. Perhaps the time of “good enough PR” has arrived. By far and away my most popular blog post of last year was How to Start A PR Company with Google and a Credit Card (I stand by everything I said in that post, other than to add a few more low cost tools to the list such as the excellent SaaS accounting package Xero).
So for all those folk in PR land who may be losing their job at the moment or worried about losing it, think of this as a great time to do your own thing. What’s the worst that could happen? (As Tim Ferriss would argue, it probably won’t so you’ve nothing to lose).
Yes, we are living in severely testing times – but as mentioned above, constraints force creativity. For all those working in social media and PR – stay small, lean, agile and focussed. Don’t pay lip service to listening. You know it makes sense.