One of my favorite quotes comes from a jazz musician, Charles Mingus, and it concerns one of the things I work on with clients every day: simplification.
“Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.”
That doesn’t mean dumbing things down. It means finding the big idea in everything we’re doing and relating each and every action to that big idea. If we’re selling air fresheners and someone thinks our cute logo would make great T-shirts, how do those ideas relate? If they don’t, maybe we need to move on.
Michelangelo captured this notion when he likened sculpture to simplifying the marble. He said that there was an angel inside a block and it was his job to set it free. There are statues inside every block, he said. His task was to remove the excess, to make the complex simple.
Many people in business make what they do unnecessarily complicated. Maybe it’s to prove their worth to themselves or to others. Maybe it’s because they’re distracted by every new idea or shiny object. As Mingus said, it’s commonplace. Take the complexities that surround you in business and make them simple. Find the big idea – the paragraph that explains the central tenets of whatever you’re doing – and use it as your roadmap. That is the tent pole that keeps everything else up and running. It’s the thing around which you build your business.