Recently my son told me “You can’t do it with one.” I was remembering a visit to the American History Museum more than six months earlier. He was talking about his attempt to attach magnetic objects on a ramp in order to direct a ball into a hole in the hands-on science exhibit.
I was delighted he remembered because at the time I stood there marveling at his minimalist approach.
For over an hour, every other kid immediately proceeded to add as many gadgets as possible to the ramp. More and more and more, without even checking if their system worked.
When my son walked up, he was the only one to remove all the pieces and try with one. Only one. No matter what he did, it didn’t work so he tried two.
When we have a project or assignment, we tend to try to add as much as we can. For instance, if you are designing a website, you might add as many bells and whistles as you can find. If you are planning an event, you might schedule more people, displays, and presentations than you need. The temptation to add every possible feature is especially evident in committees or groups of decision-makers. More must be better.
However, my son is right. You should always start with the bare minimum and see if it works. Then add each additional piece of the plan but only if you can justify additional benefits.
There’s a reason for K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid). Some of us come by this direct no-nonsense philosophy naturally but most of us don’t.
As Albert Einstein is attributed to saying:
Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.
What he really said is slightly more complicated:
It can scarcely be denied that the supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible without having to surrender the adequate representation of a single datum of experience.
The message is the same.
When you are working on any project, start from the bottom and only add what is needed.
Can you do it with one piece?