The Power of Simplifying

I was recently talking with a professional who was trying to sell me a service. She showed me how it could potentially save us a modest sum of money.

The main thought I came away with was, “Will this make life easier for me? Will it increase or decrease the workload and burdens that I have to bear?”

I am certainly interested in hearing proposals related to saving money. Even more so, however, I am interested in time saving devices that will eliminate waste and make my complex life more simple.

In their book Made to Stick, the Heath brothers list “Simple” as the first attribute of a “sticky” idea. If you want to gain influence and encourage people to act — whether that means embracing your ideas, buying your products or services, or anything else — you have to make things simple for people to understand.

I am not talking about dumbing down your content. I am talking about prioritizing and getting to the core of your message.

Effective advertisers keep the unique selling proposition (USP) of their products and services front and center. Having too many messages and proposals in an ad will confuse the audience and bury the core benefit that should be heralded.

As Richard Koch points out in The 80/20 Principle, simple is beautiful. Complex is ugly.

Two companies that come to mind that have put the principle of simplicity to highly profitable use are Apple and In-N-Out Burger. Their product offerings are known for simplicity. They have cult-like followings among their devout customer bases. They have mastered the beauty of simplicity in their respective industries.

Had our professional salesperson shown me how her service would simplify my life, I would have been all over it. Instead, she took the approach that her service was basically comparable to everyone else’s, yet she could save us a little money. Depending on the amount of savings and the trouble in switching, this might not be compelling enough to get me to make the leap.

I have noticed a tendency for ostensibly smart people to over-complicate things. Perhaps this makes them feel smart or important. However, typically one of two things happens to the audience in this situation: 1) they don’t understand, and they aren’t willing to admit it so the message and opportunity for influence is lost; or 2) they are humble enough to admit they don’t understand, so the “smart” person has to figure out how to simplify the message on the spot.

How much better would it be to simplify the message from the get-go. Why not utilize time to the fullest (rather than wasting time on over-complicated communication). Strive to build rapport because the audience can sense that you, an intelligent person, are approachable and in tune with the needs and level of understanding of the audience.

Simplify, simplify, simplify. Cut the waste. Cut the filler. Get to the point. Show how your ideas and proposals, step-by-step from start to finish, can make someone’s life easier. Show how they can practically be implemented in action rather than only understood in theory by the highly adept. With all the options people have for allocating their attention, most are not willing to go to the time or trouble to understand an over-complicated concept, idea, or strategy that could be communicated more simply by someone else.

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