Elegance in Simplicity

Elegance in Simplicity

Leonardo da Vinci once said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Countless philosophers and academicians have shared this wisdom over the centuries, and the statement is as true today as it was in da Vinci’s day. Some of the world’s most notable figures are those who were able to make their ideas approachable and usable by others. An obvious example is Apple Inc., which took complex technology and made it easy to use and accessible. The genius when they started was the simplicity, because much of the technology behind personal computers already existed. Now think of the great teachers, mentors or professors you’ve had over the years. The great ones were able to boil down seemingly complex issues into easy-to-digest pieces — understanding that making complicated subjects simple is what really matters in the end.

After years working in the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries, it is always amazing to me how often this sage wisdom is ignored. Many companies are siloed, and the “left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.” The amount of activity is often rewarded over more purposeful and results-oriented action. In many cases, the complexity and difficulty of a job or position are seen as badges of honor and not as barriers to be broken down and clearly explained. Is having a “difficult” job that no one can understand really the way to go through a career? Think of some of the “smartest” people you have respected the most in your career. It is likely that they were indeed intelligent but, more importantly, that they made complex subjects simple and easy to understand… and they brought others into their world.

The good news is that there are some very simple ways for you to introduce simplicity to your teams for greater effectiveness. Try asking your team a few pointed questions to help them get to their best work. A few such questions might be:

  • Explain to me in a few words why this is important?
  • What is your singular creative thought?
  • What is your strategy?
  • Who is your core customer?
  • What is your elevator speech?
  • Can you link that program back through strategy and tell me how it connects?
  • Can the rest of the team explain the strategy and approach? Different answers mean there’s still work to do.
  • What is the point of your presentation?
  • What do you want the audience to do?
  • What three things are you trying to communicate?
  • Your presentation should be a story, not a bunch of slides; can you tell me your story without any slides?
  • How do you think the client will feel after hearing this information?

By asking a few simple and direct questions, you can help your teams to discover if an idea or strategy is ready yet, or if there’s still work to be done. If you don’t “get it,” it’s likely that no one else will either. Keep it simple, easy to understand and explain your ideas with clarity. Now that’s really smart!