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The Simplicity Principle

Six Steps Towards Clarity in a Complex World

By Julia Hobsbawm
15-minute read
Audio available
The Simplicity Principle by Julia Hobsbawm

The Simplicity Principle (2020) proposes a simpler way of living in the twenty-first century. Drawing from nature and geometry, Julia Hobsbawm demonstrates how to simplify the complicated and learn to prioritize the things that matter most of all. 

  • Anyone who struggles with a complex workload
  • Stress-heads who need to reset
  • Those looking to kick their addiction to rolling news

Julia Hobsbawm OBE is an entrepreneur and the author of Fully Connected: Social Health in an Age of Overload. She is also Editor at Large at Arianna Huffington's portal Thrive Global and a columnist for PWC's Strategy + Business magazine.

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The Simplicity Principle

Six Steps Towards Clarity in a Complex World

By Julia Hobsbawm
  • Read in 15 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 9 key ideas
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The Simplicity Principle by Julia Hobsbawm
Synopsis

The Simplicity Principle (2020) proposes a simpler way of living in the twenty-first century. Drawing from nature and geometry, Julia Hobsbawm demonstrates how to simplify the complicated and learn to prioritize the things that matter most of all. 

Key idea 1 of 9

Confronted by a world of complexity, we desire simplicity most of all.

Let’s imagine that you need to email a colleague in your office. You switch on your computer. But before it can load, there are updates. You’re prompted to restart the machine. So you do, and after five long minutes, the system has finally updated. But wait – now, the computer needs to conduct a virus scan as the wi-fi seems to shut down.

All of this just to speak to someone a few desks away!

The key message here is: Confronted by a world of complexity, we desire simplicity most of all.

Though our sophisticated technology has simplified many things like data storage and number-crunching, it has also come with a bundle of complexity. It drives us to distraction and goes against what we want most – simplicity.

One person who understood this was Steve Jobs. Simplicity is at the heart of Apple’s products, from their smooth, sleek esthetic to their easy-to-use functionality. Although we all seek the convenience that complex technology brings, we want it to function as simply as possible. That’s the chief reason behind Apple’s success.

In fact, if you take a closer look at the most successful companies in the world, one thing unites them. From Amazon to Johnson & Johnson, they make things straightforward for the customer. Even though there’s a great deal of complexity to what they do internally, the customer experience is one of simplicity.

Our desire for simplicity can be seen in modern election results, too. Many people across the world have disengaged with the complexity and nuance of modern politics. So, when an election comes around, they tend to vote for the simplest offer.

Take the United Kingdom’s 2016 Brexit referendum. The “Leave” campaign won – in part – because it had the most straightforward message: “Take Back Control.” The “Remain” side, with their complex and nuanced case for internationalism, found themselves unable to counter such directness. The same is true of Trump’s 2016 victory. His campaign can easily be encapsulated in the simple, nationalistic slogan: “Make America Great Again.” Whether you agree or disagree with the politics of Brexit or Trump, voters largely craved simplicity in a complicated world.

That’s not to say complexity isn’t necessary and preferable sometimes. But in the twenty-first century, we’ve needlessly complicated things that should be very simple – like our communication with voters and our work schedules. Let’s see what we can do to simplify things in the following blinks.

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