The Goal is Not Simplicity

It’s fairly common these days to hear people emphasize the importance of keeping ideas “simple”.

This perspective is rooted in a presupposition that contends that all ideas can be simplified if we work hard enough on it. The benefits of simplifying ideas include things like clarity of focus, communication, and direction. While I’m a proponent of simplifying ideas for the reasons listed (In fact, I have a chapter in my upcoming book dedicated to this topic.), I think this popular view can also be misleading. Let me explain.

During my graduate studies in philosophy, I learned that an idea that is conceptually reduced beyond its unique, foundational identity ceases to be the same concept. I know that this sounds self-evident, but it’s often overlooked by the zeal of idea-makers. In other words, it’s possible to “over-simplify” a concept to a point where you no longer have the idea you started with. Yes, there is a threshold for simplifying ideas.

Furthermore, some ideas are extremely complex in nature. Over-simplifying these intricate concepts will leave you with something that doesn’t accurately represent the elements formed. Some ideas just can’t be packaged into a 10 second elevator pitch. This is okay.

While it’s absolutely important to seek clarity through simplicity, it should never come at the cost of sacrificing the integrity of your ideas. The goal is not to conquer some ultimate level of simplicity for your concepts. Rather, it’s to move forward as you discover what it is you’re actually building.

Could it be possible that our pursuit of simplicity is getting in the way of launching our ideas?

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Charles is the CEO & Chief Idea-Maker at Ideation, a brand innovation company that specializes in helping businesses & organizations build remarkable brands via innovative business design, organizational change architecture, brand integration, design, web, and marketing services. He is also the author of Good Idea. Now What?: How to Move Ideas to Execution, a practical book designed to help people move ideas to implementation. Charles is regularly invited to speak to leading companies and organizations on topics such as creativity, innovation, idea-making, and branding. Executive leaders from brands including Wells Fargo, Toyota, The White House, Catalyst, William Morris Endeavor, mun2, Council of Urban Professionals, Chick-fil-A, and many others have benefited from having Charles present at their key events.