The truth always turns out to be simpler than you thought. Or at least, this is what Richard Feynman said. I tend to agree, despite being surrounded every day by uncountable events that make me difficult to focus on what is essential. At times, it’s hard to separate the wheat from the chaff, select what is of value and hone my judgement.
I’m not alone. Human brains tend to scatter and get trapped in some minor details, falling to understand the big picture; completely losing track of what is happening. For leaders, this could be particularly problematic.
Sure, you know about Occam’s razor: essentially, when faced with competing explanations for the same phenomenon, the simplest is likely the correct one. In other words, the best explanation is the one that makes the fewest assumptions.
This way to approach situations could be interesting for leaders, as long as they need a certain level of understanding before making decisions. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not discounting the complexity of the context. Many times, we require the time to explore more complex but compelling solutions.
But other times, we don’t have time, and a full understanding becomes difficult; sometimes, it is impossible. In these moments, we need to figure out the most likely explanation and move on.
In the need of making decisions in a high complex environment, the best move is trying something (that apparently should work) and see what happens. Doing nothing can be worse than doing something without having a full understanding of all causes-effects connections.
Complexity is making leaders, employees and business struggle. There are more complexities in running a business than ever.
There are three leadership qualities to make simplification happen: courage, pragmatism and critical thinking. Courage to challenge the status quo, and focus on the greatest sources of value, saying no to many non-valued-add tasks. Pragmatism to know when being good is enough and when perfection is indispensable. And critical thinking to make the right questions at the right time.
In having simplicity as a guiding principle, we can choose between two tracks: starting with something complex and trying to make it simpler, or starting over from scratch and adding back only the necessary steps. This second track will probably let you focus on what has to be there one way or another, eliminating what is unnecessary. And again, context will define what the best strategy is to get things done.
Anyway, simplification is more a mindset you need to train than a process you can implement. But it pays off: the most successful leaders are those consistently focused on what is essential.