Forget World Peace: Visualize Using Your Turn Signal

By Linda Henman, Ph.D.

“Occam’s Razor,” a principle attributed to the 14th century English logician and Franciscan friar states “Entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily.” The term “razor” refers to the act of shaving away everything that stands in the way of the simplest explanation, making as few assumptions as possible, and eliminating those that make no difference. All things being equal, the simplest solution is best.

Thomas Aquinas recognized the value of simplicity a century earlier when he offered, “If a thing can be done adequately by means of one, it is superfluous to do it by means of several.” Albert Einstein added his brilliance to the discussion with his observation that “Theories should be as simple as possible, but no simpler.”

The idea that more is better and activity justifies existence is pervasive in many companies. Creating stacks of papers and millions of details do not prove competence; they show an inability to appreciate Occam’s razor. Those who have the capacity to answer a question in a sentence frequently don’t seem as dedicated as those who produce a volume of words. More isn’t better, but those in power often reward it as though it were. Not allowing yourself to jump on that bandwagon can help you and others move ahead more quickly on critical issues, instead of squandering time on activity that keeps people busy but doesn’t affect the strategy. Where complexity goes unfettered, bureaucracy, the triumph of means over ends, will surely follow.

Even as the senior leader, you probably can’t do one thing today to alter the course of world peace. But there is something you can do to improve you and your organization by 1% a day. According to the “Rule of 72,” if you do that for 72 days, in just a little over two months, you’ll be twice as good.

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