Over the past few weeks, I have come across a number of talks and articles that promote the idea of simplification in our lives. Futurist author Jack Uldrich has written books on the topic of “unlearning”. In fact, he refers to himself as the Chief Unlearning Officer of his consulting company. He quotes a philosopher who said, “To gain knowledge, learn something new every day. To gain wisdom, unlearn something new every day.”
Uldrich observes that the rate of change is so rapid, that it is important to unlearn old perceptions and habits. Take, for example, that three years ago, few people would have known what an “app” is. Today, three short years later, it is part of our daily lexicon.
Business author Patrick Lencioni’s recent blog was also on this theme, quoting DaVinci – “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
Now, I don’t think there is a nascent Luddite movement underfoot. But there is something elegant in the idea that businesses might benefit by looking at problems in a more simplistic manner. Look to a simpler solution when dealing with people, problems and challenges. The more complex we are in our communications with people, the more time it takes, the more people it involves and sometimes, the more expensive it is.
One of my personal takeaways from Uldrich’s presentation was a realization that with change coming so fast (and he says the speed will only increase), obsolescence occurs just as fast. For example, newspaper printing plants were once one of The Austin Company’s largest markets for design-build projects – and also one of the largest industry tradeshows we attended. In two short years, it was over.
This is where the unlearning comes in. We cannot hold onto obsolete strategies. We have to be open to the change that is coming. This is where wisdom is gained – A smart person knows a lot. A wise person knows how to use what is known.
“’Think simple’ as my old master used to say – meaning reduce the whole of its parts into the simplest terms, getting back to first principles.”
Frank Lloyd Wright
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