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May 13th, 2021 Share: Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on LinkedIn

Taking a Shave with Occam’s Razor

Earlier this week we talked about First Principles thinking. It is, in my eyes, one of the most powerful tools in your strategic arsenal. And it has a powerful twin brother — one which emerges when you apply another one of our tools in our toolbox: Invert, always invert.

Where first principles thinking argues up from the most first basis from which a thing is known, its twin brother applies the opposite lens. Known as “Occam’s Razor”, it states that the simplest explanation is preferable to one that is more complex.

Applying Occam’s Razor is a powerful way to make sure something isn’t overly complex, that you — in effect — shave off the extraneous and bring things down to their essence.

I regularly see entrepreneurs and their companies solve a particular problem by throwing the most elaborate technical solution onto it. Want to learn something new? Let me strap you into a VR headset, awkwardly navigating pixellated virtual worlds and giving you a headache after 15 minutes of continuous use. Want to pay for something you bought? Sure — install my amazing app, register your credit card, bring your phone close to my bluetooth beacon and scan your retina to verify your identity to issue the payment. Want to join me for a quick chat? Absolutely. Go ahead and install the Chrome extension for my fancy browser-based multimedia video chat app, navigate through no less than five permission dialogs, install the DRM extension, restart your computer, realize that the DRM extension is incompatible with the latest version of your operating system. Or, you know, just call me on my mobile.

I get it. I have a tendency to think “technology” when I should ask myself “what’s the quickest, easiest, cheapest and most robust way to solve the problem?” Next time you find your reflexes take aim for a super-cool, super-hip, super-new technology solution — take a shave with Occam’s Razor.

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