Is it simple yet?

It was November 1995. I had finished my MBA studies and was awaiting my results. I’d also had a very busy few years as a director [VP if you are in the USA] of a business which designed and built chemical and pharmaceutical plants . We’d just finished a couple of very large and challenging projects.

So I took a well-earned holiday in Florida and did my best to put work out of my mind!

One day we visited the Disney Institute and saw how the animators worked. The drawing boards [it was pre-Pixar in those days!] had examples of their work at various stages of completion from rough outlines to finished “cels”.

Then I saw it – on one of the last boards with its exquisite, detailed and beautifully finished “cels” … in the top right hand corner, a small, battered, curled-up yellow post-it note inscribed with the words …

“Is it simple yet?

IPost-itt was a revelation – the artist who had produced this stunning piece of work was seeking … Simplicity!

That wasn’t what I was used to in business – I felt that most professionals tried to coat their expertise with a veneer of complexity to demonstrate their knowledge and exclude others.

That post-it pad proved this was misguided thinking.

There is great value in being able to make complex issues simple to understand but it is important not to be simplistic. As Albert Einstein said:

“everything should be made as simple as possible but no simpler”.

I came to realise that real experts put a lot of effort into making things simple and that was what marked them out as great performers.

I’ve remembered that moment vividly ever since and I’ve striven to make things simpler.

So what about you? – is it simple yet?

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