It is the day and age of jargon! People have degrees that you can’t understand at the first go – you invariably have to ask them what it means, and by that I don’t mean just their specialization. We have forgotten how to keep it simple even when we speak, and I must admit I am a victim to this self-imposed complexity.
But when the natural inclination is to apply the phrase “When you cannot convince them, confuse them” to every situation, it puts us to shame as we ignore one of the greatest physicists who seems to have encouraged us to know a subject so thoroughly that the metric of success would be to explain it simply. Oft attributed to Einsten is the thought that “Everything should be as simple as it can be, but not simpler”.
As human beings, our tendency should be to get drawn towards the simple. We want to understand and complexity should be uncomfortable. However, that is not how everybody thinks. I recently came across the work of Dan Ward, award-winning engineer and US Air Force Lieutenant Colonel, now a consultant with different firms to reduce the cost, time, and complexity of delivering their innovations. He cites an example where he once worked with a client who was afraid of simplicity. He feared that his products would not sell as a result of their simplicity.
To me, it is that balance between complexity and simplicity that is crucial. Our natural inclination is to seek peace with what we understand. What we do not understand is uncomfortable – even scary. Look at the way the human mind conjured up what we today call myths. The need of the hour was to understand the complex – and so natural calamities might have become angry Gods. The attempt is to know the unknown, or reorganize in the attempt to know the unknown. This might mean that we may add layers of complexity to simplicity till we achieve that fine balance. In a power point, for example, you may make additions to the simplest form to make it more appealing. But that might be all the complexity you might want to add to it.
Making something too complex in an organization may have various pitfalls – people feel like they do not understand and therefore do not belong, they feel distanced from the mission or the ways of achieving it, or they may even begin to question their own competence. Here’s how HR can continue to ‘Keep it simple, silly!’.
Communicate, and communicate simply. People are constantly working towards stretch goals that demand a lot from them. It is essential to keep your communication simple, therefore, so that not just do people understand what you’re telling them is happening or asking them to do, they also don’t need to come back to your communication to remind themselves of what it means.
Oft repeated is the power of simple communication. The graphic designer does not make communication pretty, he organizes it in such a way that it appeals to you and you register it easily. The orator communicated effectively and convincingly, making sure what he says is touching every heart listening to him.
Something that I believe happens very subconsciously is the use of jargon. It is natural when you hear those around you speak in the same way. As a team, make it a point to keep an internal check when you hear the excessive use of jargon.
Simplify when you communicate about everything – your compensation policy and how it works, why the organization is headed in the direction which it is, why you need people to have goals and measure them continuously, why you need them to do what they do.
Keep it simple when you ask them to follow processes and templates. The aim is to get them to internalize them and that will only happen when they understand them. The people in the organization will achieve its mission and vision – the biggest risk lies in confusing them.
As HR, communicate simply. Let your people know that they are a part of everything that is happening in the organization. In the attempt to confuse them to convince them, you might just be distancing them.