Ockham, the scholastic philosopher of the thirteenth century is credit with Ockham’s Razor: make things as simple as possible but no simpler.

Anything over-simplified becomes simplistic, and of little or no value.

Sometimes in the pursuit of cleverness or clarity we accidentally oversimplify. As a communication tool, that isn’t necessarily bad if we are knowledgable enough to warn our listeners that we might being doing so in the essence of time.

Even the great Peter Drucker was capable of over-simplifying. I am reminded of this every time I read his quote, “Managers do things right and leaders do the right things.” It is a lovely turn of the phrase but obviously not all managers do all the wrong things right and furthermore, to be a great leader you need to do the right things right.

Right brain/left brain has proven over time to be a great oversimplification, albeit a popular one. While there are a few insights this model offers, recent research shows it to include much that simply isn’t true.

What can you do to benefit from “simple” and avoid the pitfalls of “simplistic”?

  1. Be discerning. Sweeping statements and broad generalities usually aren’t true (although there may be some truth in them).
  2. Understand when over-simplification is being used to save time and effort.
  3. Look beyond the obvious. Do you own research and study.
  4. Identify the exceptions to the rule. General guidelines are often referred to as rules.
  5. Ask yourself, what are the irreducible minimums to succeed in this situation or with this project?
  6. Find an expert who can simplify a seemingly complex topic and ask for help.
About Mark Sanborn

Mark Sanborn, CSP, CPAE, is president of Sanborn & Associates, Inc., an idea studio dedicated to developing leaders in business and in life. Mark is an international bestselling author and noted expert on leadership, team building, customer service and change.

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