4 Ways to Simplify the Complex
The simpler or more streamlined any company or organization can become, the fast it can evolve, adjust and adapt.
What does Peter Kaufman, the CEO of Glenair, Inc., have in common with Jeff Bezos, Nick Saban, Warren Buffett and Bill Belichick? Kaufman might not be a household name like the others, but his leadership is just as consequential. He, like the other four, possesses a skill we all could do better honing: simplifying the complex.
Glenair is one of the most efficient companies in America because of Kaufman’s willingness to constantly seek wisdom, to share it and to embed it into the company’s culture. Kaufman is a prolific man, not just for his willingness to share and give away information for free (he often delivers exceptional talks to universities) but for knowing how to simplify, knowing how to reduce variables and knowing how to unite a team.
Albert Einstein once said, “The definition of genius is taking the complex and making it simple.” The simpler or more streamlined any company or organization can become, the fast it can evolve, adjust and adapt. So, how can we simplify the problems for those we lead each day?
Here are four ways Kaufman approaches it:
Know your audience. Understand the strengths and weaknesses of those you teach, lead or manage. Get to know who they are: What's most important to them? What motivates them? What's their background? How do they prefer to communicate? What "language" do they tend to use?
Make it all about one concept. In a military briefing in Afghanistan, one United States general was shown a diagram of the military's strategy and said it looked more like a bowl of spaghetti. He then said, “When we understand how to explain the strategy, we can then win the war.” What good is something that only you can understand? Ask yourself one question before presenting: What is the one topic I want them to walk away knowing?
How you frame your information matters. Paint a verbal picture of the one element that must move the project along, then drive home that point. Don’t take an easy way out; spend time understanding how best to relay the data in a condensed, learnable fashion.
Choose your words carefully. Using big or technical words simply to impress people never works. If you know the audience, then you must know the right words to reach it.
Peter Kaufman has made a difference in many people's lives. Following his advice can make a difference in yours.