Simplification of simplification

A simplification review well run helps you identify the things you don’t need as much as you thought. It also helps you clarify why you do need the things that remain.

By sharing a prototype of a physical simplification card deck, I unleashed an unexpected simplification review from peers sharing suggestions of improvements. It proved to be very useful, in the following ways.

- The format is a deck of cards for a key reason. The required mindset for simplification is radicality. Yet, most people are not radical by nature. The deck of cards format allows them to overcome their usual barriers, by a) make it a playful activity, b) forcing them to play a particular card. I could present the information as one piece of content, but it wouldn’t help non-radical people to give it a try.

- The five methods chosen are solid. While there must be a better selection in the Library of Babel, I’m now convinced this set of methods is as perfect as someone can obsess on without becoming crazy. The purpose of this tool is to help anyone simplify anything, and the combination of the five methods covers most of that ground. I could spend more time trying to improve it, but it would be a the expense of sharing it.

- The cards don’t need visuals. I used to think they did, but I’ve replaced them with a one-liner, which does a much better job at clarifying the method approach without closing down possibilities.

- I wanted to add a sixth card, Amplify, that you could only play last. The idea was suggested a long time ago by a designer who was exposed to the deck. It remains a brilliant suggestion. But it’s no surprise that it was made by a master simplifier: amplification is the ultimate level of simplification. It becomes a topic once you have digested the notion of simplification. Until then, it’s actually noise. So it goes out.

- The exact steps of a simplification review appear to be a bit long. I’d tend to agree with that, but I have also heard many times that those cards leave you clueless if you have never thought about simplification before. The instructions card is to ease that first discovery. People might throw away the card once they become familiar with the concept, and that’s fine. But discarding it from the deck would not serve the purpose of helping anyone simplify anything.

- How many cards should a deck have? The answer is 10+1. Each method card twice, plus an instructions card. Two reasons for that: a) A simplification review won’t work well with too many people in the room, b) People should have 1 or 2 cards to play in order to be forced to suggest things that wouldn’t come naturally.

- The logo will be composed of « Simplification Cards » + a horse illustration. The entire deck will be text-based, so I think it’d be nice to add a touch of visual, also playing the subtle reminder of the HORSE acronym.

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