• Mark Topley

Three simple steps to clarity in a complicated world

Is it just me or is everything getting more complicated?

There’s certainly never been more information available to us to take in. The pressure that pushes to make our work and personal lives more complicated is immense. Despite our resistance, life is becoming more and more complicated, more fast paced.

Sometimes don’t you just want to shout ‘STOP!’?

Inside this constant barrage of information, our attention is the new currency and it’s not difficult to see why. At a primal level, our brains are designed to do two things – keep us alive, and conserve calories by not thinking too much. Ever feel your mind drifting and heading for autopilot? That’s you, trying to save energy. So getting attention is one thing, holding it is another. We’re fighting primal instinct.

It’s why simplicity is so important. The simple, memorable messages are the ones that people will remember. And a simple approach to complex problems, whether they be in your family, your business, or dealing with customers, are the only way we have to succeed. It’s just impossible to manage the level of complexity in many of the issues we face day to day.

I came across a brilliant talk online this week. You can watch it here.

I’m always excited when I find something that I think will help the people I work with, and this one hit the nail on the head.

Rather than even attempt to deal with every aspect of a complex situation, there are only two questions you need to ask (and I’ve thrown in a third).

‘In light of this situation, this new information, or the thing that’s just happened to me’:

  1. What do I stand for?

  2. What outcome do I want?

  3. What’s the first action I need to take?

This three-step approach is brilliantly simple because it taps into some deep seated magic in our brains. It keeps it simple enough to make taking action possible, before our thinking heads for the safety of auto-pilot.

Start with belief – who we are and what we believe are critical anchors for dealing with the problems we face. Our values, form the guiding principles, the firm foundation on which we can stand in order to make decisions that will resonate with us without compromising our integrity.

Get thinking – next, engage the pre-frontal cortex – our thinking brain – and decide what we actually want. I’ve found this really helpful when dealing with tricky personnel situations, especially where there is a level of animosity between people. Focussing on the outcome we want and keeping that in mind is really useful.

Take action – nothing happens without action. If we know what we stand for, what outcome we want, we have to take action. And in particular, we need to take a small, simple, but crucial step towards our outcome before our brain tries to hijack us, persuade us not to do what we know we need to do, and head for energy saving mode.

The work I do with business follows this same model.

At a belief level, we know that we want to be businesses that stand for fairness, making a difference, and ‘doing the right thing’. We also want happy and productive teams, delighted customers or patients, and ultimately, success in the fullest sense.

To achieve this, we have to take action. Belief and good intentions aren’t enough. We have to take a step towards what we want, what we believe in.

What’s the first step for you today?

Take the first step and download our free ’60 Minute CSR Plan’ – a simple guide to getting your first plan in place.

Download here

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