Chronicled – Ken Segall In Sri Lanka – The Pro Keynote


The location: The Sri Lanka Exhibition and Convention Center (SLECC) located at the heart of Colombo. The event: Ken Segall’s Pro Keynote.

What if I told you that the recipe of a great product began with a simple idea? In fact, what if it was insanely simple? Well that the idea behind the obsession that drove Apple’s success. Apple. Heard of them right? Of course you have. Apart from being a very famous fruit that led to the theories of gravity, it is also a multibillion dollar company that revolutionized the way we interact with computers and handheld devices.

For those of you who don’t know, Ken Segall was the Former Creative Director of TBWA/Chiat/Day, and interestingly, also the person behind naming of the iconic iMac and also the “Think Different” project. Why is this important to us? Because Ken was in Sri Lanka and he was talking to us about his new book “Insanely Simple” and the factors that Apple considered well enough to be simple in order to be the market force they are today,

On screen, a number of videos played while we made ourselves comfortable. The videos ranged from the work experience of MAS, Dialog and SLASSCOM.

The MC for the event introduced the audience to Ken Segall and vice versa and also talks about the user experience challenges and how one idea can change the world and that we have been given the power to change the world.

11807638_861686220546917_6659066188334355300_oJayantha de Silva was on stage first to deliver the welcome address. He spoke about SLASSCOM and its inception 7 years ago. Their goal was impressive. To be a billion dollar company by the year 2016. Thus far they’ve been doing a good job at it said Jayantha.

Hariharan Padmanathan was up next to give an introduction about Ken.

“The whole thing happened over a cup of coffee”.

He goes on to talk about how he followed Ken’s speeches in Mumbai and was exhilarated from what he heard at his speeches. His succinct description of Ken:

“Great guy, simple person, you can always talk with him over a cup of coffee”.

Next up was Ken himself. A bald stately man dressed in a snazzy coat and shirt. Clearly the whole Steve Jobs wardrobe was working on him as well. He talks with his work experience with Steve Jobs as they worked with Apple and Next, which was the company Steve founded after he was kicked out of Apple (only to rejoin later).

11794104_861685050547034_712391531870112266_oHe showed the audience a poster from 1997 of Wired magazine to when Apple was 90 days away from filing for bankruptcy. Fast forward to 14 years in 2011 and it was on its way to become the most valued company in the world. Using examples of a simple TV remote, Ken compares Apple to brands such as Sony or Toshiba where the latter would be laden with buttons and features whereas the former would be a simple device that placed the most frequently used features accessible to the user. Simple isn’t it?

He then explained about the “Think Different” campaign which was launched when Steve rejoined Applie in 1997. There were no new computers for the last 6 months Steve’s vision was to change all that. Contrary to popular belief, the words “Think Different” were not Steve’s idea, but rather of an Art Director. The voice-over was to be Steve’s to which he disagreed on the basis that those listening may think of him as an egomaniac. On the day of the recording, he appeared flushed and anxious to get it over with one take. On screen the original video dug up from Apple’s archives plays with Steve’s original voiceover. After the recording, he seemed unsatisfied and stormed off, not knowing that the recording was everything they hoped it to be and more.

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.

He also spoke about the self-biography movie about Steve Jobs, where Jobs’s character was played by Ashton Kutcher. During the reenactment of the famous scene, Ashton plays his part and then at the cut scene, turns to the directors and softly whispers “Is that OK?”, “Not at all how it happened” says Ken, “but that’s Hollywood for you”.

The main point here is to keep things simple, and Apple thus far have kept up a standard. it. It wasn’t about advertising. It was meant to be an authentic message of what Apple really is.


The next story he told us and the audience is about the iconic and well known “I” seen in products such as the iMac, iPhone and iPod.

“The important thing is Perseverance. Simplicity: The ultimate competitive weapon”

He went on to explain that in simplicity lies all the weapons one needs to beat their rivals and gain a competitive edge. Most companies tend to think that the more complex the product, the better is appears. But that is no always so. Case in point was Apple’s remote. Whereas a usual remote would have a plethora of buttons, Apple’s variant had a minimal number of buttons, yet granted the user access to the most used controls without overwhelming him/her with options.

11802658_861685420546997_2400163421934346854_oDid you know that the original iMac was almost called the MacMan? Shockingly yes. That was one of the names thrown in. Ken recalls that the term iMac was his own and when pitched to Jobs, was rejected immediately. But through perseverance, Steve began to grow accustomed to the name and Lo! And Behold! The iMac was created.

With that Ken’s presentation drew to a close and it was then time for a Q&A session.

How do you make others see the importance of simplicity? If you can influence the way people think, then you can make them see the simplicity of things.

11729001_861685530546986_4955195116934699278_oWe also found out that “RocketMac” was in the works as a possible name for the iMac. Guess it didn’t launch well with focus groups (AKA Steve Jobs).

Ken also talked about how and when he was called in to work for “Next” into their advertising agency. The company had already been in existence for two years and Ken was called in when most of the foundation had been laid out.

Thus far there have been no major companies that have successfully implemented the Insanely Simple Principle. It appears that they’re not competent enough to do so. He went on to explain that simplicity has the power to do things you couldn’t possibly imagine.

“Being complex is simple, Being simple is complex”

The Q&A session drew to a close and Dharshan Cooray, Executive Director of SLASSCOM was on stage to deliver the vote of thanks. He thanked Ken for his insights into simplicity. He also thanked Madhu and Hari for their support and the sponsors for their corporation and support. A shoutout also to ReadMe for being the social media partner.

11792043_861686073880265_2349139053056374520_oWith that the Pro Keynote drew to a close and we indulged in some refreshments but not before taking a selfie with Mr. Insanely Simple himself.




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