When is Less More?

Life can be busy. Things can feel complicated at times. I’ve had lots of discussions about work/life balance with people lately – how to get everything done (well) at work, while still contributing or at least being engaged at home, while having time for themselves for development (whether personal, professional or at least physical fitness). That’s before we’ve even contemplated the complexity of the global situation.

I was watching the making of a complex, calorific cake – an apple pie baked in a vanilla cake stacked on top of a pumpkin pie baked in a chocolate cake, all covered in buttercream icing and sparkles – and I wondered about the expression ‘less is more’. Individually I like most of those elements (not a huge fan of pumpkin pie) and I wonder if the flavours are complimentary or lost being together. Or maybe you end up eating each one individually even though combined?

Jorge Bergoglio became a household name last month, better known as Pope Francis. Whether he is a symbol of a simpler time people are searching for now or he will lead us to a simpler time, from the moment of his presentation to the world he has been unlike many popes and leaders. He chooses plainer robes, his name is one of humility and service especially to the poor, he rides and eats with the cardinals, has shunned living in the papal palace and he is accessible to the public.

A 17 year old British teenager has become the newest multi-millionaire app designer. His app, Summly, was sold to Yahoo for US$30/£20mio. The app summarizes news and articles into brief summaries, making them easier to digest, in about 400 words or less.

The European grocery stores Aldi and Lidl continue to grow despite tough economic conditions. There are many reasons for their success – one of which seems counterintuitive. Their product range is narrow and within the products they offer, they offer limited brands. It makes the shopping experience faster and easier for their shoppers. Sometimes less is more, simplicity trumps complexity.

As a leader – be of service your customer, make their lives easier, reduce complexity, do fewer things well, be humble, and be accessible to your customers and employees.

As a person – basically the same as above – be of service, make your life easier, reduce complexity, be humble, and be accessible to others.

What can you simplify in your life to lead to greater fulfillment, success and/or happiness? When is less more?