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simple: conquering the crisis of complexity


By Alan Siegel, CEO of Siegelvision and Irene Etzkorn, Chief Clarity Strategist of Siegelvision


According to Alan (dubbed “Mr. Plain English” by People magazine) and Irene, “Complexity has a dramatic, negative impact on people’s lives and robs us of time, patience understanding, money and optimism.” Those are pretty strong words and more than enough reasons for companies to embrace and committ to simplicity!


Alan and Irene provide real-world case studies to illustrate how those companies with commitment, drive and focus, can simplify even the most complex language. They also show how simplifying affects everything - including the bottom line - so it’s surprising more companies don’t embrace it.


In this digital age of information overload, who wouldn’t prefer and appreciate (and buy from) companies that use simple, clear, concise and easy-to-understand language? There’s also an argument that the more transparent the language, the more trust-worthy the company. And of course the flip-side is that companies that use overly complex disclaimers, disclosures, terms and conditions and instructions are deemed as trying to hide something and trick the consumer.


Two interesting points worth noting make with regards to complex instructions is that half of the gadgets returned to stores are “in good working order, but customers can’t figure out how to operate them” and that “80 percent of child safety seats are improperly installed or misused and the instructions for installing them are the root of the problem.” Clearly this statistic alone is an argument to simplify complex language!


The bottom line for companies is that, “simplicity improves relationship with customers” and that, “more information does not necessarily mean more clarity.”


Some take aways:

On complexity:

  • Too much information overwhelms people

  • Consumers are fighting back when they sense a company is hoodwinking them through a fog of fine print

  • When internal jargon finds it ways into external communication, companies are in effect talking to themselves in public


What simplicity is:

  • Cutting to what matters

  • Delivering substantive content

  • Speaking to an audience of one


What simplicity does:

  • Shortens the distance between people

  • Provides significant business benefits

  • Improves their relationship with customers


The key to simplicity:

  • Question the content and make sure it reflects reality

  • Speak your customer’s language

  • Talk to your customers in plain English



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