Simple is a word that is often misunderstood and to be honest I didn’t truly understand it until quite recently. It’s a word that has negative connotations for many, a word representing lack of intelligence or simple in terms of being uncomplicated, but I have now discovered that it can also be quite positive and a word that can be used to describe excellence.
Simple doesn’t only imply lack of intelligence, in fact it can also mean quite the opposite, because to be able to simplify a complicated topic you need both strength and intelligence. Richard Branson summed this up perfectly when he said
“Complexity is your enemy. Any fool can make something complicated. It is hard to keep things simple.” - Richard Branson.
So here is where it does get complicated...simple can mean lack of intelligence, but also genius, and Albert Einstein defined this when he said
“Genius is taking the complex and making it simple.” - Albert Einstein.
One thing that people often say to me is that I have the ability to take something quite complex and explain it simply, in a way that they can understand, and until stopping to think about this, I didn’t really appreciate it as a skill. Examples are a tool that I use to make things simple, as they provide an explanation that people can relate to and make sense of.
Examples are what got me a mark of 100% for an assignment once when I was studying for my degree. Having the advantage of being a mature student and plenty of life and work experience, I was able to offer lots of examples to be able to illustrate what I was trying to say, resulting in full marks.
Giving examples and providing people with an illustration of how something works can simplify a topic for someone, but does that mean I am making it simple and I’m therefore a genius? Is it the ability to use examples to illustrate understanding that equates to intelligence and that keeps it simple or is it the confidence of knowing your subject?
Could ‘keeping it simple’ be a combination of using examples and having confidence in your subject, but also having the ability of being able to adapt to your audience? The ability to be able to explain your subject to people of all levels of ability and understanding is also a real skill, because to oversimplify could be to patronise, but to not simplify enough could result in confusion.
So, for fear of over complicating this blog and wanting to keep it simple, there are three key things to remember:
Adapt your approach and explanation to your audience.
Use examples to illustrate your understanding and subject.
Don’t make things more difficult than they need to be as it does not illustrate intelligence.