“If I had more time, I would’ve written a shorter letter.”.
This quote from Blaise Pascal stakes a counterintuitive position, that something more simple ought to require even more time and thought.
Indeed, it is a jarring concept because we are inclined to believe that there is always a correlation between quantity and value. More things for the same price, more features packed in, more buttons, options, and so on—we think this means more value. But there is a trade-off in most cases between quality and quantity, which is why it often pays to take a minimalistic approach.
Minimalism prioritizes. You can’t do every possible thing with excellence. In your business—as in life generally—you have to choose from an infinite number of possible pursuits. When you narrow these options, you have to think deeply about what really matters, and what doesn’t.
Minimalism is about purpose. The way you find what really matters and what doesn’t is to focus on purpose—what can be called the Big Why. If you set out to design a salt-shaker, you have to start with why anyone needs one in the first place. If you set out to create a company, you must understand why you personally care, and why others truly need your product or service—the real and unique value you provide.
Minimalism is freedom to focus. We encounter countless decisions in a given day. We are bombarded by thousands of distractions. Once we know what really matters, and why, minimalism provides the mental clarity we need to accomplish our goals with greater efficiency. The two largest companies in America—Apple and Google—built their empires on a philosophy of simplicity in design, products, and business strategy.
Minimalism inspires innovation. Once you’ve removed the clutter, new possibilities emerge. When Uber revolutionized the taxi industry, it did so by eliminating preconceived notions of what a cab company was, and how the business model had to work. This allowed them to focus on the central problems and build new solutions around it.
Minimalism raises the standard. When you remove all superfluous elements and allow the bare pieces to speak for themselves, it becomes painfully clear where the flaws are. Too often, mediocre work is simply covered up by bells, whistles, and other distractions that rarely add to the quality because they don’t emerge from the core purpose.
Choosing quality over quantity is not an easy path, which is why so few people do something truly great. It takes time, thought, patience, and persistence. But when done well, it demands notice.