The Power of Simplicity

The Power of Simplicity 150 150 Jason Lauritsen

Here’s a thought to consider on a Friday.  In your work with people, do you continually strive to make things simpler, or do you unwittingly make things more complex?

People love simple.  It’s why Google thrives and Yahoo dies.  It’s why Apple is king and Blackberry is a punchline.

“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.”  ~Hans Hofmann

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent.  It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.”  ~E.F. Schumacher

“Everything should be as simple as possible, but not simpler.” ~Albert Einstein

To embrace the practice of making things simple involves approaching situation using these five steps:

  1. Get clear on your objective.  What are you trying to accomplish, specifically?  And how will you know that you’ve succeeded?
  2. Identify the key components of what you are trying to influence.  This part of the process can be time consuming.  If you are designing a performance incentive, you need to study the science of human motivation, different incentive structures and types, etc.  Only once you have studied and understand the components are you ready for the final step.
  3. Ask yourself, based on what I’ve learned, what would be the easiest and most straight-forward solution to achieving the objective.  Repeat until you have a list of at least 3 possible solutions.
  4. Chose the simplest of the solutions.  Consider if you can simplify any further.  If you can, do it.
  5. Implement.  Measure impact and if it doesn’t achieve your objective, only then do you introduce a more complex solution.

The reason simplicity isn’t common is that it requires hard work.  The simplicity of Google and Apple products is the product of enormous energy, investment and discipline.  You must fight for simplicity.  But, it appears to be worth the fight.


  • Kerry

    Great post. Like many others, I can’t even count the number of meetings I’ve been in where none of these points have been addressed: objective, solution, simplicity. So many meetings seem to be about hashing out details external to the core story. I’m working to fight it!

  • broc.edwards

    I once heard a line attributed to an aviation engineer in defense of simplicity: “Any part left off is a part that can’t break.”

    I find this to be as true of HR programs as aircraft. Simple is more elegant, durable, user-friendly, beautiful, repairable, and a lot more difficult to attain. But very much worth the effort.

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