The Elegant And The Dump Truck

“But without constraints, you have no forcing function, which makes you think deeply to simplify – and to innovate.”  -from Tony Wagner’s Creating Innovators

To make something truly elegant, in form, function, and design, is an incredibly difficult matter.  It requires time, perseverance, pride of workmanship, and a real depth of understanding.  And very often, it requires issues of complexity being whittled down into their simplest form…to the very essence of their being.  It requires real artistry.

Whether that design resides in the environment, your offering, or your delivery and approach…a certain elegance should flow through your work at each of these levels.  In all that you do.  An authentic and honest appreciation and joy for the work should reverberate outward.

Adding that touch of elegance to what you do, what you provide, to its form, function, and design is the outward projection of a person’s love for their work.  For what they do and provide.

Which is why taking something from the complex to the simple is real artistry.  Often the most complex process of all.  Requiring deep understanding of what you are doing and what you are trying to provide.  According to Jonathan Ive…“Simplicity isn’t just a visual style.  It’s not just minimalism or the absence of clutter.  It involves digging through the depth of the complexity.  To be truly simple, you have to go really deep.”

Which means that simplicity is never simple.  It is often a convoluted and difficult process of trial and error to take something down to its very essence, to its very core.  As Jonathan Ive further expounds…“Different and new is relatively easy.  Doing something that’s genuinely better is very hard.”

Which is why design has garnered such importance in recent times.  In all that we do.  Especially in transforming from your current reality to the vision.  Creating and leading change is more than just implementing new initiatives, ideas, technology…it requires a deep understanding of what is being implemented and how.  Which is the elegance.  Whittling the complex down to its essence, its core.  Or as Jonathan Ive asserts…“Making the solution seem so completely inevitable and obvious, so uncontrived and natural – it’s so hard.”

The reality we have to face is that we live in a time where the information pipeline comes at full blast.  A virtual downpour of data.  Opened wide and always aimed at us.  As leaders we have to be aware that we are not turning that same pipeline on our people.  Avoiding the information and data dump truck.

Leadership, then, is not only about creating elegance and simplicity in the form and function of what we provide…it is also understanding and acknowledging what we need to stop doing.  What we need to take off the plate to allow those we lead to focus on the essential, the important…that which provides the greatest value towards the vision.

Rather than the urgent, the short-term, and reactionary.

Which is incredibly prevalent in leadership at this very moment.  Very often we choose the dump truck over creating elegant simplicity.  Which convolutes and overwhelms.  Hiding the essential, the critical goals.  Distorting any form of alignment across the institution and organization.

And when leaders are reactionary to the plethora of initiatives and mandates…when our work is hurried and surface-level…when we focus on short-term over long-term…we circumvent elegant simplicity and real clarity.  Choosing a dump truck approach that buries any organization in clutter and disorder.  Spending our time doing everything, rather than the right thing.

Which requires doing different.  Or as Jonathan Ive discusses…“The better way is to go deeper with the simplicity, to understand everything about it and how it’s manufactured.  You have to deeply understand the essence of a product in order to be able to get rid of the parts that are not essential.”

It is this approach to your leadership that will eventually determine if the most important and essential goals of your institution and organization are understood and met.  And your leadership will determine the clarity of these goals and how able your people are to move forward effectively.

You have to consider whether those you lead welcome you in for the clarity you provide to the vision and goals of the organization…Or do they run for cover as they hear the “beep, beep, beep” of your dump truck backing up to bury them in a heap of clutter.

Welcome your thoughts?  Ideas?

(This post is just a few of the thoughts rattling around in my head as we wrestle with implementation of the Common Core State Standards.)


4 thoughts on “The Elegant And The Dump Truck

  1. David,
    Your blog is spot-on. I completely agree when you say, “The reality we have to face is that we live in a time where the information pipeline comes at full blast. A virtual downpour of data. Opened wide and always aimed at us. As leaders we have to be aware that we are not turning that same pipeline on our people. Avoiding the information and data dump truck.”

    We have so much information thrown at us and I believe it is one of my jobs as a leader to make sure staff gets the appropriate information. They get hit with so much and we always look for clarity…although I’m sure there are times they hide when they see me coming! Great post.

  2. David,

    Simplicity is complex to create. Your thoughts are right on that the cognitive requirements are high if an organization or team want to find it. In addition, strong lines of communication, language alignment and deep levels of trust make the process more possible.

    I enjoyed your thoughts. Thanks again for sharing.


  3. Pingback: A Truck Drivers Response to Elegance in the Days of Common Core | Partner in Education – Notions and Potions

  4. Pingback: The delicate balance… | Jennie's Blog

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