Be Fruitful and Simplify!

Michiko Kakutani in The New York Times:

Less is more. The bare essentials. Back to basics. User-friendly. No fine print. Clutter-free. Transparent. Clean. Easy. Back in the mid-19th century Henry David Thoreau exhorted us to “simplify, simplify,” and his appeal to distill things down to “the necessary and the real” has only gained more resonance, as our Internet-driven, A.D.D. culture has grown ever more complex and frenetic. The re-embrace of simplicity is not exactly new. In the 1990s some neo-hippies and fed-up yuppies took up the idea of Voluntary Simplicity, Downshifting or Simple Living. In 2000 the commercial possibilities of this trend were ratified with Time Inc.’s introduction of the magazine “Real Simple,” and in 2005 Staples started promoting itself with an “Easy Button.”

…“Simple,” by two business consultants, Alan Siegel and Irene Etzkorn, is a straightforward brief on simplicity, providing the reader with interesting examples of companies that have successfully embraced it as a business strategy while only occasionally slipping into overly simplistic advice. (“Simplification requires a thorough and pervasive commitment by an organization to empathize, distill and clarify.”) “Simpler,” by Cass R. Sunstein — who as the administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs from 2009 to 2012 helped “oversee the issuance of nearly 2,000 rules from federal agencies” — is a more detailed, more nuanced look at how rules and regulations can be made simpler, and how the social environment in which we make decisions can be “nudged” in ways that help us to make more rational, sensible choices. Many of the more original and illuminating ideas in this book, however, were previously mapped out by Mr. Sunstein and Richard H. Thaler in their fascinating 2008 best seller “Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness,” or build upon the groundbreaking ideas laid out by Daniel Kahneman in his compelling 2011 book “Thinking, Fast and Slow.”

More here.