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Senior Correspondent

Complexity makes confused leaders feel important when they should feel like failures.

“The business schools reward difficult complex behavior more than simple behavior, but simple behavior is more effective.” Warren Buffett

Rivers take long, complex routes to the ocean because they follow the easy path. The hard path is the straight one.


Simplicity is rejected because it seems unimportant, ineffective, even naïve. Simple feels common and easy, even though it’s rare and difficult.

Complexity is the path of least resistance;
simplicity the most.

Sources of complexity:

  1. Resistance to simplify what’s already working.
  2. Reluctance to kill something that might work.
  3. Lack of resolve and attention to the value of simplicity.

Complexity reflects beginnings that never died, but should have.

Finding simplicity:

Simplicity is exclusive.

Complexity is inclusive.

Simplicity is the result of elimination.

Developing simplicity is taking away not adding to. Eliminating options is taking the straight path to the ocean.

First steps:

  1. Find simplicity for yourself before imposing it on others. Eliminate nonessentials; expose essentials.
  2. Make the pursuit of simplicity a leadership priority. Begin pursuing.
  3. Constantly scan for complexity and attack it ferociously.

The Simple Stick:

The first time I read the expression, “Hit it with the ‘simple stick’,” was reading Ken Segall’s book, “Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple’s Success.”

People often walked away from Steve Jobs having been hit with the Simple Stick. Segall believes the reason Apple is the most profitable business in the world is it’s obsession with simplicity.

The path to exceptional includes finding your “simple stick.”

*This post continues my reflections on my visit to the Chick-fil-A Leadercast.

Bonus: “Simple Isn’t Easy“

What are the sources of complexity?

What does the path to simplicity look like to you?

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