Ockham’s Razor states that all things being equal, the simplest and most direct solution with the fewest number of steps is usually the correct answer to any problem. It’s a powerful philosophy named after William of Ockham who popularized the strategy centuries ago. When I find myself at a stalemate, I often think of this age-old principle.
The problem is that business leaders and entrepreneurs like to pride themselves on their originality, intelligence and problem-solving skills. The thought of deciding on the “simplest” solution or the “too obvious” choice causes otherwise smart decision makers to bypass the right option.
Most of us are guilty of needlessly complicating business with complex spreadsheets, fancy jargon or far-sighted business plans. Here are six examples showing why Ockham’s Razor can work for you:
Everyone understands it.
The beauty of a simple solution is that it won’t be difficult for your team members, throughout all layers of your organization, to understand the vision. The more complicated the directive, the greater the jeopardy that the message will be lost in translation as it disseminates from the top down. A clear, concise vision that can be boiled down and communicated directly maximizes your chances of everyone “getting it.” This is half the battle.
2. Everyone buys in.
With the increased clarity referred to in point number one, there’s a far greater possibility the entire organization will rally behind the chosen direction. Never underestimate the direct correlation between people’s level of confidence when they understand the message and their willingness to support it wholeheartedly.
3. Your customers get it.
Not only is it critical that your employees understand the vision, it’s equally important that your customer base does, too. Who you are, what you do and what you stand for certainly will influence your customers’ decisions. As it relates to your brand, the clear and simple message has the maximum possibility of reaching the broadest customer audience.
4. It’s easier to duplicate a simple model than a complex one.
The more things that have to happen right for your business to succeed, the greater the risk. As Jim Collins wrote in Good to Great, enduring, outstanding companies focus on what drives their economic engines, a single ratio that highlights a single ‘X’ that will produce the highest return. Companies able to grow quickly are ones who have a clear understanding of what drives them. They also can replicate their successes quickly and efficiently.
5. With direct initiatives, results are easier to measure.
Overly complex strategies not only are hard to implement, they often make it more difficult to gauge results The most successful companies have a straightforward direction, along with clear and simple measuring sticks that keep them on track.
6. Mastery is more difficult with intricate strategies.
More complicated programs will always take longer to implement as well as to master. Keeping strategies simple allows all involved to develop a quicker understanding, thus shortening the learning curve and accelerating the time to mastery. Once this occurs, a company is ready for explosive growth.
A key part of Ockham’s Razor is the phrase, “all things being equal.” A business leader should not treat this as a carte blanche excuse to ignore alternative options or eschew creative solutions. All ideas should be flushed out, debated and thoroughly explored.
Once that happens and “if” there is a standstill between two competing strategies, it’s wise to remember the old but tried and tested philosophy: Choose the simplest, most direct solution with the fewest number of steps.