Want to achieve more? Do less.
Have you ever heard of the Bonini Paradox? It describes a paradox in which we try to navigate or understand something complex by creating ever-more complex tools to help us navigate and understand the complex thing.
For example: a website wireframe that takes just as long to build as the website itself.
A meeting held to discuss the contents of a future meeting.
A strategy document that takes longer to write than the materials outlined in the strategy document.
Yeh. We’ve all been there.
Humans like simplicity. But here’s another paradox: we find it really hard to resist making things complex. Simplicity and complexity exist within us in equal measure.
As university marketers and communicators, we exist within highly complex organisations. I’ve given it a lot of thought over the years and I believe much of that complexity is unavoidable; our offerings are detailed and diverse, we have many different purposes, we are big, we are by nature a tricky beast.
Our job? Help our customer navigate that complexity. To do this, we need to embrace simplicity.
Simplicity is a skill, a mindset and a practice. It’s also really, really hard to achieve.
Here’s the final paradox I’ll present you with: doing things simply means doing less. Doing less is hard.
“Truth is ever to be found in the simplicity, and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things.” Isaac Newton
Here are some of the ways I try to imbue everything I do with a simplicity mindset:
Do 80 per cent at 100 per cent
My life-changing boss/mentor taught me this one. Marketing and comms is limitless in it’s scope. We could always be doing more. People always expect us to be doing more. So, her philosophy was simple: pick only the most important activities and then do them to an impeccable standard. In practice, this means looking at a list of ten tasks, crossing two off the list, and giving the remaining eight absolutely everything you’ve got: 80 per cent of tasks at 100 per cent effort.
In marketing and comms we think big, right?! I try to think of it this way:
Ideas = big. Execution = small.
Take an awesome idea, and then distill it into the simplest form possible. One kick-arse ad. One great testimonial. One awesome website. One stellar social media platform. Fewer things, done better.
Make it shorter
Brevity wins. Write fewer words.
Say it simply
Our sector loves buzzwords, acronyms and academic-sounding language. These things have their place, but it’s not in marketing and comms collateral. Every time you try to communicate more than one message, you are asking more of your customer. Say less. Say it simply. Say it with perfect clarity.
Streamline, streamline, streamline
Cut layers, links, words and pages from your website. Reduce the number of social media channels you use. Make less “stuff”, and make your stuff great. Ask less of your customer: fewer clicks to find information on your website, simpler steps from A to B, fewer choices to make, fewer messages to understand, less text to read.
Finally, some wise words from Ken Segal, who (literally) wrote the book on simplicity:
“It will be a challenge, because you live and work in a complicated world. But it will be fruitful for the very same reason. In a world where complexity abounds, those who stand for simplicity will always stand apart.