On Innovation: Making the Complex Simple



Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.  But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.

~ Steve Jobs

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

~ Leonardo da Vinci

To me, the extraordinary aspect of martial arts lies in its simplicity. The easy way is also the right way, and martial arts is nothing at all special; the closer to the true way of martial arts, the less wastage of expression there is.

~ Bruce Lee

I’m currently reading the book, Made to Stick, by Chip and Dan Heath.  In the book Chip talks about what he calls “the curse of knowledge” and explains that once you are given knowledge it is impossible to imagine what it’s like to lack that knowledge.  Have you ever seen that?  I have.

I saw a recent example when I helped my parents buy an iPhone.  This was their first smart phone and they were excited to learn how to use it.  They came to our house after purchasing their phones and my wife sat down to explain how to use them and get their Apple accounts setup.  My wife is very good with technology, but this still took some time to explain how to setup their email to be accessed on their phone and to get used to the “swipe” of the screen.

As my wife was teaching them the smart phone, my seventeen year-old daughter came in the room.  When she saw her mother teaching her grandparents how to use the phone she joked “oh no, the blind leading the blind!”  Everyone got a good chuckle out of this, but the event stuck with me as something I could learn from.  My daughter grew up with technology and can’t imagine not having it around.  Her grandparents did not so it takes them longer to learn.

I appreciated the leadership principles of simplicity and patience my wife showed as she taught how to use the iPhone.  Having grown up in between the two generations, she understood what it was like to not have technology and to grow up with it.  She was able to translate the relative complexity into the simple and was successful in helping our parents use their smart phones.

Are you that kind of leader?  Do you make the complex simple for those you lead?  This is a key leadership skill.  How do you develop it?  That is a longer discussion, but I recommend you read Chip and Dan’s book for further insight.  They have done a great creating a framework of making difficult concepts simple and “sticky.”

Choose simplicity.


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