Simplicity from Chaos

12 Nov 2010|tommy

In our work, we often find ourselves swimming in data – a staggering number of comments, observations, thoughts, and seemingly unrelated data points. We’re always challenged by the need to distill it all down into the most basic core of the insight – what’s really going on? What’s at the heart of the matter, and what is the core impact for our clients?

At the same time, most clients have a healthy mix of detail-focused people and big picture people. Even after we’ve distilled things down to the core, we’re faced with the challenge of balancing the need for thoroughness with a need for simple, actionable insight. No daunting challenge!

Yesterday, we had the honor of a visit from Ted Frank, who leads Backstory Studios… and has the enviable title “Storyteller” on his business card. We batted around ideas for crafting narrative arcs that balance brevity with breadth, impact with detail. Nothing conclusive to report, I’m afraid – but it was inspirational to discuss ideas with someone whose sole focus is discerning a strong story from a mess of data.

Still meditating on this theme, I was thrilled to have a Friday Inspiration Moment through watching TED Fellow Eric Berlow’s terrific talk on the interplay between simplicity and complexity. I’m giving Eric a standing ovation at my desk for his emphasis on the use of visualization models as a way of analyzing information – not just as a way of presenting information. I also applaud his admonition to “step back, consider the entire system… and from that place, hone in on the sphere of influence that matters most.”

And my Friday Inspiration Moment? “The more you step back and embrace complexity, the better chance you have of finding simple answers. And it’s often different than the simple answer you started out with.”

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