Stop looking for easy solutions to complex problems

Andy Bolter
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Sly Stallone
Communicating your idea should be simpler than the idea itself (Source: Getty)

"That idea is so simple it’s brilliant" is often uttered as a judgement of its legitimacy.

We may wonder whether its simplicity is its brilliance. Or perhaps it’s just our natural desire for the 80/20 rule – that is, for many events, roughly 80 per cent of the effects come from 20 per cent of the causes – to be true of effort.

Simple versus complex

Simplicity certainly is great. But if you’re judging ideas by their simplicity, then you’re not worrying enough about their effectiveness. And probably worrying too much about the effort you want to invest.

The fear of an idea becoming too complex and misinterpreting it with confusion and clutter is what causes us to seclude or scrap it, instead of bringing in different views and opinions to make it better.

In some cases, simplicity would be dangerous. A good example is how financial institutions bring new products to the table.

It takes structurers, quants and trading teams to create and deliver ideas that work over a period of time. All the while they are continually assessed against risk, legislation, contracts and profit margins by the middle office as they’re built.

Yes to collaboration

Once an idea has been mapped out, it is time to begin the nurturing process. Involving everyone in the company is a great way of ensuring its development and simplifying the understanding of a complex thought. Building ideas needs responsibility and inclusivity, not seclusion and privacy. Different people bring different skills, perspectives and experiences to it. Only when these are brought together will you know if the initial simple idea is the best of the bunch.

No to labels

A great idea can come from anyone in your organisation. True creatives should exhibit the humility to recognise that anyone could have a better idea than them.

Creatives aren’t the only people who know how to create.

As soon as you put labels on someone, you are already judging the value of their input. Ignoring the receptionist who works for your company could be ignoring an integral member of the audience your campaign is targeting; get these crucial employees into the room – they might add that spark that takes the project in new, different and unthought of directions.

Simplify complexity

Having to communicate a complex idea to clients or customers can be tricky. First, you must make sure you understand your idea before trying to make others understand it. The cleverest people are the ones who don’t try to show how intelligent they are with bamboozling explanations built to belittle.

Communicating your idea should be simpler than the idea itself. If you’ve spent weeks processing an idea, don’t expect your clients to sell to other stakeholders successfully after an hour’s presentation.

Involve them in the idea earlier so they have an early knowledge – this is key to turning barriers into stakeholders.

Ideas are like seeds. If they hit stony ground, then nothing happens. Give ideas soil, sunshine and time and they could grow and bloom into a beautiful rose, or become as untouchable as a stinging nettle.

Either way they should never be chosen by how easy they seem. That would be the laziest path in the garden.

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