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If you are ever lucky enough to hear Eli Goldratt speak, he will almost certainly tell you what he calls “one of the fundamental beliefs of science.” As he puts it, “In reality there are no complex systems” or “reality cannot be complex.” Therefore, our first principle of common sense says that you need to shun complexity and seek simplicity. The following can all help you to do this:

  • Look for simple solutions by asking what the simplest thing to do would be in a given situation.

  • Ask simple questions: Who? What? Why? Where? When? How?

  • Ask for simple answers. This is particularly important when you are dealing with highly technical people.

  • Try to describe something—an issue, a problem, a solution, a proposal—coherently in 25 words or less.

  • Can you describe that same thing in just 30 seconds? This is sometimes called the “elevator story” or “elevator pitch,” the idea being that you meet some important person in an elevator and you've got the travel time of the elevator to convey your message.

  • Write down the issue, problem, solution, or proposal. If you find you have ended up with a complex solution or idea, you have probably gone in the wrong direction. Go back and look again, this time in the simple direction.

  • When you come up with something, ask if there is a simpler way.

  • Get people to tell it to you as if you're a six-year-old.

  • Remember the acronym KISS (keep it simple, stupid).

  • Learn—and use—lateral thinking. The need for lateral thinking arises out of the way the mind works. The mind acts to create, recognize, and use patterns, but it does not act to change patterns. Lateral thinking is all about changing patterns. It is about escaping from old ideas and generating new ones. Lateral thinking involves two basic processes:

    - Escape: recognizing the current received wisdom with regard to something and then searching for alternative ways to look at or do that thing.

    - Provocation: finding those alternative ways.

  • Learn to think like Leonardo da Vinci. In a book titled How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci [2], Michael Gelb identifies what he calls “the fundamentals of Leonardo's approach to learning and the cultivation of intelligence.” He crystallizes these in seven principles:

    - Curiosità: Being constantly curious about life and open to new learning.

    - Dimostrazione: Testing knowledge through experience, persistence, and learning from mistakes.

    - Sensazione: Continually refining the senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch) as a means of enhancing the experience of life.

    - Sfumato: In Italian it means “going up in smoke.” It refers to being able to be comfortable with paradox, uncertainty, and ambiguity.

    - Arte/Scienze: Developing whole-brain thinking (i.e., the balance between art and science, logic and the imagination).

    - Corporalita: It's the healthy body part of “a healthy mind in a healthy body” (sana in corpore sano). It's about cultivating grace, fitness, poise, and ambidexterity.

    - Connessione: Recognizing that everything is connected to everything else. (As da Vinci put it, “The earth is moved from its position by the weight of a tiny bird resting upon it.”)



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