Simple is the New Clever

Management is about clarity

But clarity is a rare gift

Most of us like to be more strategic in our communication…

We love to look serious and feel clever…

Nobody likes to sound simple

We must penetrate the customer base vertically and horizontally

If we reallocate our assets we can achieve synergy and benefit from economies of scope

Simplicity is in our DNA and open communication is the commitment that bring this to life

We are enabling innovative frictionless technologies as well as go to market approaches

Gone are the days when we had to strategise one-to-one mind share

Does your head hurt yet?

Management speak may make us feel managerial

But we can be too clever for our own good.

Nobody knows what we are saying, they are just nodding wisely so they don’t look simple too.

If you can say what you think clearly and concisely…

Then you stand half a chance of…

  • Persuading others it is a good idea
  • Planning the work
  • Working the plan
  • Measuring progress
  • Achieving your goal

And if you can’t…

It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt ~ Mark Twain

P.S. This is doubly true for PowerPoint

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Image by AlaskanLibrarian



  1. Excellent article. I know of one Eastern philosophy where ‘simplicity’ or attempting to simplify ones life is an actual step. Zen is notorious for it’s short verses and sayings that when read carefully and reflected upon can supposedly lead to flashes of enlightenment.
    An expression like *Peace lies within.* <—– 3 simple and common words; However, how many of us fully and absolutely understand this?
    I enjoyed the article. Thanks! Everyone have a happy (and simple) new year 🙂

  2. Great post, James. Communication is so important. While your post is about communication by managers to employees, the same holds true for communication with customers… it really is dreadful how we’ve adopted these phrases that are unclear and confuse rather than clarify and guide. Focus on saying what you mean – you’re more likely to get the results you desire.

    Through Dilbert, Scott Adams has always done a great job of capturing the spirit of what you’re saying. For years, I wondered if he was sitting in my office.

    Annette 🙂

  3. James Lawther says:

    He most certainly is not Annette

    He is sitting in mine

    Have a good new year


  4. James,

    So true. Our (false) perception is that value lies in the complex or esoteric. My wife has spent time looking at the web site of companies similar to my own, but hundreds of times larger (BMG, etc.). “Why can’t you just take what they say and tweak it a little?” she wonders. I guess I resist that because I want to stay real somehow. Plus, I want to understand what I’m saying. I might have to back it up somehow.

    I had a potential customer contact me one day to ask what type of system his office should implement to ensure patients are called back in the proper order. I suggested a pad and paper. What a letdown that was for him. He wanted a groovy electronic “workflow solution.”

    Often, more value can be found in the simple, basic approach. It pays to start there and augment as necessary, particularly with communications. From that standpoint, I also like how Solomon phrased it in Proverbs 17:28, “Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.”

    Guess I’ll be silent now. Have a great New Year!

    • James Lawther says:

      Thanks for your comment Mark, I couldn’t agree more, I am a big fan of paper and pencil, it forces us to be more creative n our approcah.

      Happy new year


  5. James,
    Here’s a quote for all of the jazz fans and it comes from Charles Mingus who was quoted as saying “Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creative.”

    I would suggest that creativity and simplicity requires us to think, I mean ‘really’ think, and that means we need to work and work hard. Also, recent advances into how the brain works shows that thinking uses up to 40% more energy than not thinking, therefore we tend not to think too deeply as a rule as it’s part of our survival instinct (conserve energy).

    All this management speak is, it seems to me, just a cover for being lazy and not very smart 😉


  6. Thanks James, you address an important (and very widespread) problem.

    When simplifying management speak written by colleagues, once or twice I’ve been left with literally no words on the page after all the fluff was removed!

    Poor expression tends to perpetuate poor thinking, so we should challenge and simplify it whenever we can.

    Many people fear “dumbing down” the message, but it’s very rare for the audience to complain of that – it’s far more common for the message to be needlessly complex.

    You might find this list of simpler terms for everyday phrases useful. I welcome comments, and by all means leave a link back to one of your own posts.

  7. Hello James

    Can you imagine what organisational life would be like if we all turned up naked? Now you know the real cause of all the dressing up that occurs in organisations: titles, clothes, offices, language…..

    Whilst you and i might think language is about communication – convey a message clearly so that it is understood accurately – this is not the actual role of communication. Only computer nerds, the AI community, cognitive psychologists, and scientific managers think this is the role of language. Those who are not so blinded get that the role of language is much richer. The richer role of language is to convey-communicate status, to exercise power, to orchestrate certain kinds of relationships and rule out others, to convey membership of some groups and not others….. Which is why the ‘bullshit’ factor of business language is not likely to go away any time soon.

    All the best