The power of simplicity

African American woman giving a presentation

It has been almost five years that I have followed the same morning routine with a mix of physical exercise, journaling, and reading – a lot of reading. With the latter habit, I sought to increase my knowledge of diverse topics and better engage in lively conversations with friends, colleagues, investors, and clients.  For the last couple of years, I have been challenging myself with a different approach to that morning content consumption: trying to summarize and explain, in my own words, what I have just read. 

This simple yet tough exercise – especially on those sleepy mornings –  has improved my critical thinking in different aspects of life and business. The central insight that this process has sparked in me so far is the need to go back to the basics of every subject. 

How can we approach a healthier life without the fundamentals of exercising and resting? How can we support diversity, equity, and inclusion within our company if we leave aside respect? How can we promote a specific product forgetting consumer value creation? How do we analyze robust financial planning without a clear understanding of business models? 

This reflection was brought to me during a series of classes at ESMT entitled “Marketing and Sales in a Digital World.” Professor Johannes Habel taught the job-to-be-done approach to defining the fundamentals of a product/service. By answering “Why should a customer use your product/service?”, you can build up elements and benefits to generate more value for your customers. 

Getting back to the basics does not mean a lack of complexity. By definition, simplicity is not the opposite of complexity, but complicated. It can be dangerous to fall into the simplicity fallacy, if that means putting aside fundamental elements of your objective to get a reasoning shortcut. Approaching complex business issues with a simplicity mindset can help break down challenges into understandable and manageable pieces. 

In the end, we may not find answers to the complex issues of our lives and workplaces. However, getting back to the basics may guide us to good questions – which is a great start.