The difficulty with simplicity

November 30, 2017 – 
“Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

If you ask “what’s rule number one for Twill?” there is one answer that you will hear across the board – simplicity! This overarching principle penetrates how we develop our product and how we operate.

Where the logistics industry started

The business world is complex, especially in the logistics industry. Legacy systems, outdated processes, old working habits, local exceptions – all of these factors add up to the complexity level on top of the business nature.

I clearly remember the “business origami” we drew when we started Twill. It is so huge with dots and lines all over the place representing different parties and their interactions.

Standing in front of it made me think. This doesn’t make sense…This whole process makes our customers frustrated and makes us less efficient. We need a solution to make both our customers’ and our own lives easier.

So our goal is very clear. We want to simplify the logistics business.

Now the question is how…

Creating change one step at a time

Very soon we realised that to be simple is much more difficult than to be complex.

The reason why the logistics industry is so complex today is exactly because people in the industry were not critical and diligent enough to make it simple in its early days. Adding things to that process is easy but removing things is certainly not.

We still have a long way to go if we want to make – and keep – Twill as simple to use as possible. Here I just want to share a few learnings I had.

Three keys to simplicity

First of all, we need to learn and understand all the complexity and the reasons behind it. Understanding the problem is the foundation of any innovation. We need to expose ourselves in every business process and industry practice, as well as understand why things are done in this way. Luckily, with Twill, we have access to a huge number of logistics experts from Damco and Maersk to get the best knowledge in the industry.

Secondly, we need to constantly challenge the status quo to innovate solutions in order to handle those problems. Being critical and courageous to challenge is in our blood here at Twill. And this is what triggers the thinking of solution design.

Thirdly, if the complexity is something that exists for a reason or will stay for a while, we need to define a logic to handle it. There will be cases where the complexity is necessary for the time being. For example, customs clearance processes across the world are all individually different in terms of timeline and documents. We know that this won’t change overnight, but our customers don’t need to be experts on this. At Twill, we configure the logic based on our expertise and we maintain simplicity for our customers.

I want to finish off with a quote that I heard from one of our customers and which keeps me on my toes all the time. He said: “I like the simplicity of Twill and I hope over the time of its development, you don’t make it difficult to use.”

-Daisy Zhang, Head of Product

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