Three Surprising Secrets to Creating Simplicity
Fog rolled in last week in Central Pennsylvania. Warm temperatures collided with cold snow and gray mist blanked our valley. Everything slows in fog. Everything’s more dangerous.
Complexity creates fog; simplicity clears it.
Simplicity produces clarity; clarity enables confidence.
Confidence fuels progress.
Causes of complexity:
- Fuzzy purpose. Life is more complex and confusing for those without purpose. Clear purpose informs and emboldens decisions.
- Options. Eliminate options to shed light on future paths. Options paralyze. Say, “No,” to a few options and find, “Yes.”
- Imagined obstacles. I’ve watched fog roll in while those doing nothing explain why it can’t be done. When exploring options begin explaining why they work. Say, “Yes and…,” instead of, “That won’t work.” Will every option work? Of course not. Explore it before you kill it.
- Courageously admit you don’t know. Pretending you know is the worst fog of all. Cowards pretend they know. Courageous leaders say, “Help me understand ….” Say things like, “Tell me more, or, that point seems confusing.”
- Move forward. Stalled progress invites thicker fog. In leadership, fog doesn’t clear, you leave it behind by stepping out.
- Listen to anger and frustration. Anger won’t show the way but it establishes focal points and illuminates unspoken values. It tells you what’s important. Foggy leaders close their eyes and feel their way around. Anger is a flashlight in the fog. If you aren’t angry about something, you don’t care about much.
The big “P” purpose:
“How was your day?”
“It was great.”
“I got a lot done.”
Big deal! You got a lot done. Did purpose guide doing? You always fail unless purpose guides, regardless of what gets done. Purpose is the answer to:
- The real reason your organizations exists.
- What you want when you stop listening to everyone else.
- What you want others to say about you when you’re gone.
- What’s the big deal?
What causes complexity?
How can you create simplicity, today?
Choices are opportunities when we exercise them instead of falling into them. I’m a firm believer that not all choices, even the ones that look good, are supposed to be said yes to. I believe that sometimes we are given good looking opportunities we should turn down. I believe there are three main categories of opportunities to answer in life. Those that we are obviously supposed to say no to, those that are good/ok to say yes to, but maybe we should turn down and then those of the “golden path” – the best of the best. Sometimes we say yes too soon to the first great looking opportunity, or yes to something that isn’t as good for us as it could be. You can’t do everything. Choice is required. But will it be a good choice, or a great one?
But in the long run, I prefer the word clarification over simplification though. Clarification removes elements in order to make the substance purer or more concentrated. Simplification often simply removes valuable portions of life altogether. An example – I read a book on simplifying your life that recommended spending much less time with family. And though yes, that can be an important consideration, I don’t find that a blanket removal improves my quality of life. The simple thing is to remove the time spent to have more time for other things. However, clarifying how and when I spend time might be a better approach and might actually enrich my life. To me, clarification is more difficult, but the high road to simplification.
Thank you Julia. I’m glad you dropped in and shared your insights.
Thanks for suggesting clarification is your preferred word to simplification. I can see where clarifying results in simplicity.
You mention saying no to good opportunities. Perhaps the toughest thing we can do. For me, purpose helps me say no. But good opportunities are tempting.
Perhaps the most painful temptation is what if my golden opportunity doesn’t come?
What if the path to the golden opportunity in the future is pursuing a good opportunity today?
Without choice, there is no grace. Choice is why we exist. Your response reminds me of a story about a little girl who had a pretty little fake pearl necklace. Something very special to her, something really pretty, her only necklace, but a good one. Whenever she wore it, people would compliment her and comment on how pretty it was and how she looked like such a little lady. The necklace was one of the most positive experiences in her life. She didn’t have much, but she hung onto them like treasure.
Then one day her father asked her if she loved him. And she said yes. And he asked her to do a favor for him, and she said of course Daddy, anything. And he told her, “Then please give me your necklace.” And she was taken aback. How could her father ask such a thing, knowing how special it was, knowing how wonderful of an experience it was to own it? Why would he ask her to give up her most prized possession? And he told her that she could choose not to give it to him if she liked, or to give it to him, but the choice had to be hers. And she cried. In the end, she gave her father her little fake pearl necklace. And when she did, he handed her a box and said to her, “I’ve been waiting for you to give them up, so I can give you these instead.” When she opened the box, inside was a real string of pearls.
The moral of the story of course is that sometimes we are so caught with “good enough” that we block ourselves from better. You can apply spiritual lessons or life lessons in general to the story. But you could also argue that without the experience of the “good enough” pearls first, the little girl might not appreciate and experience the valuable real pearls quite the same.
Spot on parable Julia, thanks for sharing! And sometimes good enough=we’ve always done it this way and it worked.
Thanks Doc. 🙂
Just started a new job. All the new information can be overwhelming. Good advice today. Thanks,
Best wishes Glenn. Sometimes it takes awhile for the fog to clear. I suppose you could also say, if there is no fog, you ain’t doing much.
Thanks, Dan. Purposeful movement clears fog.
Reblogged this on The Other Side of Risk and commented:
I enjoyed Dan’s post today. Also note the early comment regarding clarification vs. simplification. Both concepts apply. Finding what can go right involves being able to see and sort options; and be willing to explore them to find real opportunities. The better we understand our vision and purpose, the more good opportunities will pop up. Thanks, Dan.
Complexity and simplicity are two sides of same coin. One is incomplete without other. Once create obstacle, other create opportunity. Just like day and night, winter and summer; complexity and simplicity are complement to each other. And both have its own beauty. The causes of complexity are our inability to see its other side, multiple perspective. I agree with you that acceptance is the greatest power. Those who do not accept and comes in ” know it all” category create complexity even from simple things.
I like complexity more than simplicity. The reason is that complexity widens thinking level and lead to simplicity. The opposite is also true, but to those who do not accept it. I believe that creating simplicity to complexity or otherwise is the state of our mind. Everything is the belief. Any way you are right. It depends how to you feel it, believe it.
Thank you Ajay.
Hmmm… I wonder if your contribution is simple or complex? 🙂
I love the idea of seeing simplicity and complexity connected…pushing through one finds the other… I’m smiling.
I think I get HOW you used simplicity. I think simplicity precedes clarity. In Jonathan Field’s blog post http://www.jonathanfields.com/blog/how-to-get-your-mojo-back-and-do-big-things-today/ he refers to Stanford professor, B.J. Fogg, who studied persuasion for years and devised his own model for behavior change. One of his big discoveries: simplicity trumps information. Take the complexity out of your approach and make it as easy as possible to learn what to do, then do it.
Hi Giselle, did you know tv shows are geared to folks with a 6th grade mentality! Guess that says a lot about me cause I love me some tv!!! Thanks for what you shared.
Thank you Giselle. When I talk with people about writing…the first principle is any fool can make things complex. Simplicity is power. Now I can say, simplicity persuades. That suggests that simplicity helps us build trust. Complexity makes us skeptical.
Very timely post Dan. I recently finished reading “The Decision Book – 50 Models for Strategic Thinking” by Mikael Krogerus and Roman Tschappeler. Models help to simplify, clarify, and reduce complexity.
We tend to get too wrapped in the details that are only symptomatic of the root cause which, more often than not, can be attributed to our simply being “human”.
Thanks as always for sharing. Time to enjoy some sunshine.
Thank you Redge. I always appreciate it when someone extends the conversation with an added resource. However, 50 models is too many for me. Maybe I could handle five. 50 feels complex… 🙂
Great post! Late to the party busy day.
Looks like 6 questions.
Simple from the gut answers no bloviating today no time.
1. Make money
2. Peace of mind
3. Brilliant and determined
4. In reality none of this is a big deal at the end no matter what we take a dirt nap. How you deal with that reality determines the choices you make.
5. Many things seemingly wanting to happen at the same time, boil it down and see if that doesn’t fit.
6. Clearly defined goals, believable, achievable goals with milestones clearly defined and in place. Either that or just goof off and watch some great tv and see the world just chugs along so don’ t feel too much pressure. Remember the end for us all is the same, a dirt nap. Ok some have what happens next after death, not addressing beliefs either way here. Respect folks for believing what is meaningful to them but physically we expire, so take time to enjoy this human condition while u can is what I am suggesting.
Thanks Dan great post!
The term, “Bloviating” was worth the stop… Thanks!
Another good one Dan, I don’t know how you keep up the pace – maybe that’s another topic!
I’ve also been preaching “Simplicity = Clarity” in the contexts of Visual Management and Stakeholder Engagement.
When visualising measurable deliverables, I explain how the KPI must be SMARTER (Simple, Measurable i.e: easy to judge Good/No Good status, Actionable i.e: if you can’t or won’t be doing anything about it there’s no point measuring it, Responsibility for taking action is clearTime-boundnd actions, Easy to update, Responsive to changes in company direction/priorities. Therefore a simple hand-drawn A4 chart can be more powerful than a complex database or Gannt chart.
In Stakeholder Engagement, it’s important to allow stakeholders to quickly aeasilyily grasp the Goal, the Current Situation (how big the gap is from the goal), Options (inc the recommended option and why this is recommended) and Next Steps.
Great contribution Stephen. Perhaps we are reluctant to embrace simplicity because we fear people won’t think we are smart. But simple is smart. Cheers
Ambiguity Breeds Mediocrity. Clarity Creates Focus.
Simple and clear! Thank you John.
Fog can be disorienting. If you don’t know where you are, and what your purpose is things can get really complicated doing the most basic tasks, This is significantly compromised with a larger vision.
Thanks for adding the disorienting component… so true. We need to keep this in mind.