Scalability and Elegant Simplicity

On a recent podcast, my good friend Brad Giles and I got into a discussion about the importance of simplicity when it comes to scalability.

We all know the benefits of simplicity. Whether it’s a software program, a map to a destination, or instructions about how to build a piece of furniture for your kid’s room. When things are designed and presented simply, it’s a lot easier to produce what’s expected the first time.

But it’s very challenging to make things simple because businesses, by their nature, are very complex. There’s so much going on – from different customers with unique needs to employees with different operating systems. Never mind the variabilities that may exist in the world.

In a business where you might have hundreds of people doing their own versions of assembly (metaphorically), clear instructions and processes mean you eliminate the possibility of interpretation, errors and headaches. The end result being an increased consistency of results.

Good for the company and less frustration for the person doing the work.

Two Key Ingredients

That said, simplicity that enables scalability isn’t easy to achieve and requires two ingredients: mastery of a skill and time. Without both, you’ll tend to over-design and/or overcomplicate.

We’ve all had experiences watching someone masterful who makes their skill look incredibly easy. Walking a tightrope, returning a blistering tennis serve to the corner of the court, or making the perfect omelette.

When it comes to time, I think of a quote by French mathematician, physicist, inventor, and writer, Blaise Pascal:

“I have made this (letter) longer than usual because I have not had time to make it shorter.”

To write a very succinct, three-sentence email is much harder than writing three paragraphs. Thoughtful editing takes time.

Leaders who are excellent communicators can clearly and quickly make their point versus others who ramble in circles. While they may be energetic and entertaining, you have no idea what their point is.

And when boiling down a company’s vision in a strategic planning session, you can, of course, come up with everything in 20 or 30 minutes. However, writing a vision that is simple, tangible and authentic takes hours, days or months.

When we are so busy doing the work, we don’t take the time to edit and refine and to create that elegant simplicity. Elegance in anything is incredibly simple – but it takes mastery, time and editing. Simple, critical ingredients and steps are required if you want to scale.

You may think you are too busy to take the time to edit and refine something to a level of elegant simplicity but if you want to achieve scalability, it’s well worth the investment.

The Challenge

  • What’s one important thing in your business that you would you love to simplify – and ideally make dramatically easier for you or your customers?
  • Which master (or masters) could you ask to help you to simplify this piece of business and how much time do you think you have?