Like many of you during this Covid-19 crisis, I read a lot and have come across some great articles and ideas that I would like to share with you over the coming months.
There was one article in particular around simplicity that resonated strongly with me. If you are like me, the pandemic has made me realise how much I want to simplify things both in my business and in my life.
Confucius once said that life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.
How true is that?
Today in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) World, the complexity of business decisions, automation, technology and AI, bears both financial and emotional consequences for us all. Then with the disruption of Covid-19 on top of all of this, we are experiencing significant stress levels.
As humans, our desire for simplicity is not new, especially during times when society undergoes upheaval. So while everyone is talking about robotics, machine learning, AI, we need to be reminded that we – as humans – need meaning and connection. We also need boundaries as much as we need to sleep.
Psychologists and neuroscientists understand that we can not go overloading people with systems and structures that are complex and anti-human. We have information overload, decision fatigue, and the “always-on” culture. So the craving for simplicity is not surprising.
The opposite for CAT – a work-life of complexity, anxiety and time poverty – is KISS.
Most of you would know the KISS principle – Keep it Simple Stupid! Living by KISS means making a commitment to pursuing clarity and a commitment to avoid decision fatigue in which too many choices limits and inhibits people. Steve Jobs always wore a black t-shirt and jeans, Barack Obama wore either a blue suit or a grey suit, and Apple remains a great example of a company committed to simple and functional design.
People who live by the KISS principle think and behave in a more agile way as they don’t feel so burdened.
So what are the elements of the simplicity principle?
Here are five areas that leaders following the simplicity principle observe – you may come up with more:
- They have boundaries. They know their limits, and they observe them. Did you know that it has been estimated that it takes literally 23 minutes and 15 seconds for the human brain to refocus after being online and task switching? A boundary may involve being clear about when you will be on digital devices – and when you will be focused in conversation.
- They know how to reset and rest. By trusting simplicity, you take time out to value nature and appreciate how calming it can be. As we all know, being always ‘on’ is bound to lead to failure.
- KISS leaders treat their schedules like their bodies. They control what goes in their schedule like they would control what they eat. They know when to stop and may choose to create daily time blocks to address important tasks.
- They balance technological speed and scale against reality. They address the human dimension and its impact on every worker and customer in an organisation. They place the human at the centre of work execution.
- They understand that there is collective talent, insight and wisdom among their network. People want to serve and share in a myriad of ways.
Turning the complex into the simple will always be a constant challenge. It is something we all need to consciously work on to improve the way we think and act. Steve Jobs said “Simple can be harder than complex; You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it is worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains”.