Team Elements – Elegance: Simplicity

by Ron Potter

Let’s continue our TREC to a great team.

You’ll recall that Aristotle defined four levels of the Pursuit of Happiness.  Level 4 is the highest level that produces the most happiness.  Aristotle’s words to describe this level were Truth, Love, Beauty, and Unity.  I’ve converted those words into Truth, Respect, Elegance, and Commitment.  I’ve made this conversion for a couple of reasons.

  1. Words like Love and Beauty are not often found in our corporate language today so I’ve converted Love to Respect and Beauty to Elegance
  2. I like to use language tricks to help you remember a concept.  TREC sounds very much like the word TREK.  The word TREK means a “long, arduous journey.”  Building a great team is a long, arduous journey.  You’re on a TREK

If you intend to start that journey of building a great team, following the concepts of TREC will help you accomplish that goal.

We’ve looked at Truth and Respect in our previous blog posts.   Our next topic is Elegance which will include the subtopics of

  • Simplicity
  • Focus
  • Role Clarification

Today we’ll start looking at Simplicity.


One definition of the word Elegance says “the quality of being pleasingly ingenious and simple.”

I think every team would want to be known as ingenious.  Our corporations are pushing for more innovation every day.  But I think simplicity is the more powerful and difficult of the two.  In fact, being ingenious in the simplest form is the most powerful type of innovation.

Albert Einstein said,

The definition of genius is taking the complex and making it simple.”  He also said “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage — to move in the opposite direction.”

Notice that with the pause right in the middle, he indicated that it would take courage.  Taking something complex and making it simple is genius at work but it takes courage.  Why?

I think one of the answers to that question is that you are a professional or expert.  Often you have earned your right to be on the team because you have become a professional or an expert at something.  Professionals and experts tend to make things more complex to prove themselves or show-off their genius.  But, back to Einstein’s quote, any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex.  Real genius happens when things are simplified, made more elegant, streamlined, easier to adjust to changes, quicker to adopt.

Part of your TREC is to come up with the simplest, most elegant solution possible.  It’s not easy and it takes courage.

The other reason I’ve seen through the years for making things more complex rather than simpler is that it’s hard to be held accountable when things are bigger and more complex.  I’ve seen “expert” after “expert” explain away why a plan or structure didn’t work because “who could have predicted something like that would happen in a system so complex?”

Make things simpler, clearer and less complex.  Might you be held more accountable?  Yes!  But high-performance teams hold themselves more accountable than anyone else will.

Simplify, simplify, simplify.  Take out the complexity.  Bring more clarity.  Be a more elegant team.  People will notice.

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