Simplicity and Complexity

Simplicity and Complexity image 117158623Simplicity and Complexity

Do you ever notice how good it feels when you experience the power of simplicity? It’s clarifying, even freeing. On the other hand, do you notice how heavy it feels when you’re experiencing complexity? It has a certain weight to it.

Why does simplicity feel so good? Because simplicity eliminates, or at least minimizes, intricacy, ornamentation even pretentiousness. Simplicity cuts out the extraneous middle. Simplicity is a faster way to get to whatever and wherever you’re after.

Complexity, by its very nature, creates obstacles between where you are and where you’re going. Complexity gets in the way. Complexity makes everything it touches a lot more difficult – and a lot more confusing.

If simplicity frees and complexity limits, then why does complexity clutter our world? Why does complexity become the way we engineer experiences and convey information? I believe it’s because we’re focused on what we want to share instead of what our audiences will experience.

As a general rule, we don’t do a very good job of listening. This is most true when we have something to say or sell. We tend to talk at people. We want others to listen to us, but we rarely ask people how their experience of us makes them feel. This holds equally true for their experience of our products as it does for our interactions.

Why do we pay more attention to what we think rather than what others feel? It’s because we believe a rational argument complete with facts and figures will win the day. Our intellectual side is seduced by data, content and possibilities. We want to demonstrate why all of it matters. This is how complexity starts.

That’s why white papers are so popular. And why websites are cluttered and confusing. And why we typically purchase business books that are weighty and long. It’s why our answers tend to be long-winded. And why our customer interfaces are complicated.

If we can just get out of our own heads to consider the experience of our audiences, we will go a long way toward driving simplicity in many important ways. For example,

  • Positioning. It’s a lot easier to assemble all the elements that support what you are rather than being absolutely clear about what you’re not. Can you get your positioning down to three words or less? What can you eliminate right now?
  • Selling. It’s a lot easier to go deep on reasons why rather than stating no more than three that matter the most. Can you commit to three reasons why you/your products matter?
  • Writing. It’s easier to build compound sentences than to focus on the one set of words that say it best. This is where editors have enormous value.
  • Interface Design. There are many things that make your products cool. You want to show them all off. But in an app and Twitter world you need to strip away everything extraneous to drive the user as simply as possible to the end. Why do you think Apple has such a loyal customer base? For its leadership in driving innovation, Apple’s users regularly experience elegant simplicity.

Beware of complexity. It’s not your friend. Focus instead on enabling simplicity in all you do. The result will be welcomed in our overly noisy world.

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