Archives for posts with tag: Simple

Our American business friends love the phrase ‘peeling back the onion’. It’s used a lot as a metaphor for life, but I hear it in business most of the time. People use it to describe how you can layer a story or a whiteboard to get your message across, or to reduce something complex and muddle to something simpler to grasp, but for years I was never sure I knew exactly what they meant.

Sure, I get the analogy of how you can remove the layers of an onion, and there is a satisfying feeling to doing it that probably dates back to six-year-old-birthday-party games of ‘pass the parcel’, but there’s not much to it when you peel away the inside layer. There’s no reward in the centre of an onion.

For me, the direction is wrong. Even though I’m an outside-in kind of a guy – by which I mean that I need to understand the whole picture so I can see how the little bit I’m dealing with fits in – I much prefer the inside-out onion layers approach, starting with the core and adding back in the onion layers, or the concentric rings of a diagram, as you go.

Adding the onion layers, rather than peeling them back, starts with something small and simple and builds as you go. It’s not a breaking down or disassembling process, it builds from the nub, the core, the kernel, and layers on the colour, complexity and detail.

When you’re communicating with people, it’s tempting to cram in as many messages as possible, because they’re all pretty important. It’s really hard to fit in everything that you want to say about your brand, your logo, your advert and so on.

One thing I’ve learnt over the years is just that, namely one thing. Your audience has nowhere near as much interest in your stuff as you do, and perhaps none at all. So you really only have one chance to get a simple message across.

Try to distil everything you’re trying to do into the single most important thing you want your audience to take away. If you’ve rank ordered the benefits of your product or service, and you still feel you want to talk about the second and third benefits, you need to work harder on the first benefit, until it’s the standout benefit, the thing that makes you genuinely different.

‘What’t the one thing we want them to be aware of, to think, to do?’ You want bank for your buck, not a whimper from your 3 bucks.

As human beings, we have a tendency to overcomplicate things. Sometimes it’s not of our own doing, it’s the way things grow organically when time, people and variables conspire to turn things into a mess.

The last thing you want to do in life or work is create your own Gordian Knot. Simplicity is your guide. If you can distill things into the simple, most important thing, then you get clarity, you can make decisions, and you can execute.

Try these things to bring simplicity and create power and forward motion:

– Get people to explain things to you in terms a 10-year-old would understand, with no jargon or fancy words

– When faced with a large problem or project, break it up into smaller pieces and fix those pieces one at a time. Then you can celebrate the small victories towards the large end goal

– Prioritise or rank the factors you’re dealing with. You want to focus on the major priorities. All the other less important factors floating around are a distraction that stops you seeing the wood for the trees

– When unsure of what to do next, break the process down into a series of steps to get you where you need to be. Then take that next step

– Be continuously aware of your own or external complicating forces. They are the enemies of progress and the thieves of time

Simple is strong and powerful. Complicated is sapping and fearful.