‘Business storytelling’ and simplexity


The most frequent feedback we receive from our business storytelling workshops is this stuff is not easy!  By that people mean finding the right story for your audience and purpose, that is engaging is not as easy as it seems.  I have always vigorously nodded in agreement, without really adding any value to that discussion!  Until now that is.  I have been reading Jeffrey Kluger’s  book on Simplexity where he says  “Of all the things that confuse human beings, perhaps nothing trips us up so much as what it means for something to be simple or complex.”

The book describes how even the most technologically advanced manufacturing plant is infinitely simpler  than a humble houseplant.  So across the fields in science and  even the arts, people are studying how systems that seem simple or complex may be just the opposite.  An easy to relate to example of simplexity is Google.  It presents us a simple interface that harbours complexity  to deliver search results.

Kluger poses and answers several intriguing questions in his book using the concept of simplexity such as  “Why are the instruction manuals for cell phones incomprehensible?”, and my pet favourite one which will provide some comfort to disappointed sporting fans all over the world “Why do bad teams win so many games?”  Yes why indeed!

While reading the book I was struck by how stories are the perfect example of simplexity.  So stories may seem simple, easy to understand and repeatable, yet they can carry powerful or even complex messages.  And good stories that hit the mark in terms of purpose and audience are not that simple to come up with, yet we all can and do tell stories naturally.  That infuriating paradox!

The other thing that struck home with me was when Kluger says “We’re suckers for size, for flash, for speed, for scale; we mistake  immensity for complexity and subtlety for simplicity. That has very often been our undoing”.  So often in storytelling people are looking for that ‘Holy Grail’ story for that bigger than Ben Hur, scaling Mount Everest story.  Yet we find it is the simple, everyday-ordinary stories, that people connect and engage with the most.  And give the storyteller the greatest results.

Simplexity in storytelling is both how stories can be more complex than they look and how it is the simple stories not the larger than life stories that are the most powerful.

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4 Comments
  • Peter Smith
    Reply

    Agreed, one only has to look at the great slide shows on http://www.slideshare.net to see how the simple design beats the boring slide show hands down every time.

    • Yamini Naidu
      Reply

      Peter thanks for your comment. The simple stuff beats everything else but is harder to do. To quote John Stewart ‘It is easy to make things complicated in business too many people try to do that. The hard bit is communicating the complicated in a way that people understand…and I find stories do just that’.
      Regards
      Yamini

  • John Katanas
    Reply

    All true. A simple, easy to deliver and digest story can go a long way towards hitting the mark with your audience. Isn’t it funny however at times when a complex issue is delivered via a very simply story….the reaction is sometimes ‘if only it was that simple..’ It’s all about striking a good balance between simplicity (allowing connection and empathy with the audience) and detail (allowing deeper understanding of the why and the how). Perhaps my engineering mindset works this way for me at least ? 🙂 Success rate you ask ??, well, more than 50/50 i’d think for me, but in definite need to improve and simplify my stories (i like to talk alot !!! 🙂

    • Yamini Naidu
      Reply

      John
      Many thanks for your comment. You’re right it is about striking a balance between simplictiy and detail. However our expereince shows that is best done using two different tools. Connection and empathy through storytelling and the detail through other ways. But both are important.
      Regards
      Yamini

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