Simplicity on the other side of complexity


“I would not give a fig for the simplicity on this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” ~ Leonardo Da Vinci

I was recently asked to contribute to a shared list of beautiful books. As I did so (and I have written reviews of many books in posts on this site), I recognised that, more and more, I love radically distilled writing. One line, even one word.

Recently I wrote a post of single lines, inspired by a tweet from @nayyirahwaheed

“the longest writing. can be one line.”

In considering the value of simplicity, I’m reminded of a recent call, where I was asked for my advice for a CEO looking to address a sense from staff that they are disconnected from leadership. The idea being put forward was to talk to them about the Strategic Plan of the business.

I suggested getting that strategic plan down to one page. On that page would be written one word at the top, with three themes under it.

A one-word driver with three themes to focus upon to deliver upon it.

One page.

Easy for everybody to understand across the globe for that company at all levels.

Simplicity itself.

However, to get there is on the other side of complexity. I supported another CEO with a transformative vision a few years ago. We indeed got to a one-page strategy like this, one which engaged the business like none other before.

Simplicity it was, but it was indeed on the other side of complexity.

To get there was simple, but it was not easy. As Debussy would say, music is the space between the notes, as illustrated by one of my favourite guitar solos of all time, featured in this post, “Less is more