We are all aware of the benefits of simplicity in business: a simplified and focused message attracts more customers, a simplified process flow increases productivity, simplified procedures decrease occurrence of errors, and simplified arguments improve our negotiating skills. In all these cases and many more it is easy to see that simplicity means reducing (the unnecessary or the noise) in order to add (value, effectiveness and quality).
The benefits of behavioral simplificationare maybe less obvious to grasp, although
we are all familiar with (and often envious of) those few engaging personalities that we occasionally stumble into, who seem to have the innate gift of clarity of vision, the confidence to ignore both external pressures and personal anxieties, the ability to choose the minimum effort for the maximum impact, to give a to-the-point answer to most critical questions and to “be in the flow” when concentrated and focused. Intuitively we see that these gifted people “must” have a simplified and clearer view of themselves, the world around them and life at large. We vaguely grasp that the secret of their positive influence and success (meant here as personal and social fulfillment) “must” somehow correlated with their simplifying attitude.
We are also all aware that truly valuable simplification is not easy to achieve. Why?
There is the obvious: identifying the unnecessary in a culture of abundance requires time, dedication, persistence and sheer hard work. Is this all there is to it? Clearly there is more.
There are also misguided attempts. For example, we are all too familiar with some horrifying examples of micromanagement where the claimed intent to gain clarity (a close relative of simplicity) actually results into the opposite: a typical “control freak boss” (to use a commonly recognized stereotype) actually reduces value (i.e. ownership, engagement, perspective and the big-picture) by adding complexity. Why does this happen?
Simplicity is not only a question of hard work.There are more tricky and subtle hindering factors at play, e.g. what behavioral economists define as “framing” (assumptions and stereotypes) or “irrationality” (intuitive short-cuts that might induce us into error) and what social psychologists define as “cognitive dissonance”, sometimes called mind-traps or conditioning factors that create stress (e.g. anxiety, perfectionism, peer pressure, misunderstood expectations). Due to these factors, we might be thinking that we are simplifying, while we are actually complicating.
The good news is that,once we become more aware of the factors that hinder our achievement of simplicity and clarity, we are suddenly energized and ready to start the process of “reducing the noise in order to add value” to our business choices, to our personal life and to our relationships.
One of the most effective ways of reaching this awareness is via professional Coaching. A properly trained Coach can help, often in a very short time (less than four or five sessions), open the door to the big-picture. The big-picture, or our individual vision, is a powerful tool that we can use to discriminate between the necessary and the unnecessary, the “noise” and the real values.
It is one of the most thoroughly satisfying aspects of being a coach to see people emerge from the “spiderwebs” of complexity to find back their core beliefs and values. This is the beginning of a journey towards a simplified life of personal fulfillment and external influence.
“Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious, and adding the meaningful.”John Maeda
“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
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”Leonardo da Vinci