Simple thinking can lead to safer plans, better communication, and easier execution. The power of simplicity is apparent throughout history, where strategists and artists alike strived for simplicity. Let's look at a few examples!
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One of the leaders of the minimalist movements, Colin Chapman, the founder of Lotus Cars, urged his designers to “Simplify, then add lightness.” Designer of the world’s first ever stressed monocoque racing car, built with an entire chassis in aluminium sheet, Colin Chapman strived to use as few parts as possible in his cars.
Today, many product designers still use the magic of subtraction to innovate.
Allegedly coined by aircraft engineer Kelly Johnson, the KISS principle makes simplicity a key goal in design by stating that most systems work best if they are kept simple.
One day, Kelly Johnson handed his team of design engineers a handful of tools, with the challenge that the jet aircraft they were designing must be repairable by an average mechanic in the field under combat conditions, only using these tools—forcing them to keep the design stupidly simple.
In Living with Complexity , Professor Donald Arthur Norman wrote: “When things are too simple, they are also viewed as dull and uneventful. Psychologists have demonstrated that people prefer a middle level of complexity: too simple and we are bored, too complex and we are confused."
"Moreover, the ideal level of complexity is a moving target, because the more expert we become at any subject, the more complexity we prefer.”
Famous architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who is considered one of the pioneers of modernist architecture, always kept repeating this aphorism to whoever would hear him: less is more.
His approach was to arrange the necessary components of a building to create an impression of extreme simplicity, sometimes repurposing some elements so they would serve several purposes.
When trying to solve a crime, Sherlock Holmes, the most famous fictional detective believes that “the simplest explanation is often the most plausible.”
The French writer and poet, Antoine de Saint Exupéry, also wrote: “It seems that perfection is reached not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
People tend to prefer complex solutions over plain ones.
Intellectual certainty can limit our creativity. Where lies a certain path, many alternative doors leading to innovative ideas are ignored. In contrast, negative capability is the art of embracing intellectual uncertainty.
Negative capability is about uncertainty, mystery, and doubt, as opposed to “fixed” and “enforced” conceptions of the world. Negative capability encourages us to keep an open mind and always consider the possibility that we may be wrong. Negative capability goes hand in hand with continuous learning, discouraging arrogance, and encouraging personal growth.
Worry is generally seen as a negative thing. But it could also have a positive function.
Worry is an adaptive function to better solve problems and imagine creative solutions. And worrying well is a skill anyone can learn.
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