Have you ever attended a meeting or training course and thought, ‘You know, I’m sure there was a message there somewhere, but it was so complicated they lost me after 5 minutes!’?
The danger of putting too much information across is manifold.
The human brain can only keep a relatively small bit of information in place at any one time.
In fact, many scientists say that the short-term memory can only hold about seven to nine ‘bits’ of information before being overloaded.
This means that, when presenting any message, making it more complex makes it less understandable.
Simply outlining a list of items doesn’t make it impressive; it makes it meaningless.
The tipping point is difficult to describe, from the point where ‘enough is enough’ to the point where ‘that’s too much, so my brain is switching off. So long…!’
Albert Einstein made a fine point; Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” But just because your subject may be complex, it doesn’t mean it can’t be efficient and it doesn’t mean you can’t have clarity over the process.
If you have a complicated sales process, your clients simply won’t follow it.
If your CRM system is complex, people will back off from completing it and you’ll miss valuable information.
If you try to coach too many subjects with your team, they will feel overloaded and fewer items will get completed.
As I often say to my team, any fool can make things complicated…the beauty is in making things simple without missing out valuable components.
Ever been to a restaurant and the menu offers so much choice that you’re paralysed and find it difficult to make a choice?
That’s exactly what I mean!
So why should we make things simpler?
A simple answer is because it means people understand us more often, and with understanding comes trust.
Taking complexity out of our communications means helping people make sense of the key messages you are giving.
It becomes more believable to them and makes them feel confident in their own decision-making.
To take complexity out of a message, think of these elements:
Identify the critical messages needed to make the point, or help the person make a decision.
If you’re familiar with Occam’s Razor, you’ll understand how, if a person has a choice between a simple explanation and a more complex one, they will more often choose the simpler version.
This is common human behaviour, so think about what it is you wish your listener to know, understand, believe or comprehend.
Then identify how you can make the process less complicated.
Then take out the bits that don’t matter.
Then take out those bits that aren’t critical.
That should be the ‘simple’ message.
Steve Jobs, when he launched the Macbook Air, cut straight to the quick when he devised the core message he wanted to use to market it.
No high-level marketing speak; no verbosity about its technical brilliance.
Just four key words that made the message profound and easy to comprehend: “The world’s thinnest notebook!”
A simple key missive that hit the mark better than any complex sales message.
Manage this in a way that you can track, report and remind you of progress.
You need to get valuable feedback at every point in the communication process.
For example, if you are sending technical information via email, arrange to get feedback on the level of understanding people have about it.
If you are running a software course, get people who use the software to give detailed feedback on what was good and bad about the way the messages were put across.
You want to know if what you said was comprehensive enough for the information to be understood, and simple enough for it to be implemented.
When before a prospect in a sales situation, you want to ensure what you’ve proposed is complex enough to deal with the current challenges they are facing and simple enough to allow them to convince their financial bosses of the benefits.
Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “For the simplicity that lies this side of complexity, I would not give a fig, but for the simplicity that lies on the other side of complexity, I would give my life.”
This points us in the direction of the simplicity that lies on the other side of our confusions and illusions.
By identifying what makes life or choices simple for our listening audience, we get to see how our complex ideas and technical brilliance may need to be assimilated into a communication that simply ‘makes sense’.
When we reach that point, we know we’ve made it simple enough but not simpler.