1 May, 2020
In this week’s Good Business Book Club, Giles has been interviewing Julia Hobsbawm about her new book The Simplicity Principle, as part of the Conduit Conversations series. But if you want to keep it simple, here is a short review.
As Confucius said, “life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated”. And while Confucius never had to balance teaching maths to reluctant children who miss their teachers, explaining how to set up an online supermarket delivery to his parents, dealing with an overloaded broadband system and figuring out how to fix a broken dishwasher with the aid of YouTube, he may have had a point.
While we are experiencing abrupt and enforced slimming down of our busy schedules, the cognitive demands on those of us fortunate enough to still be working don’t seem to have slowed down commensurately. We are conscious that productivity has slowed, communication is challenging and everything seems harder than it used to be.
This is the dilemma addressed by Julia Hobsbawm. Written and published before the world changed, it is nonetheless a prescient and valuable reminder of the importance of managing our cognitive loads and focusing on what is important. The book focuses the number six as the starting point for this streamlining. Seven items is our cognitive limit, whereas the machines that now determine so much of our working and non–working lives have no limits. Managing this conflict is essential if we are to communicate more effectively, be more productive, and have better outcomes.
Julia’s prescription is a simple (of course) approach to dealing with complexity, and provides six (of course) useful principles for calmer and more effective managing of our home and work lives. From smart scheduling to observing boundaries and putting people not technology at the heart of our approach to problem solving, this is a book for now and for the future.
By Claire Jost