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  • Mark P Stevens

Learning is...like the Gettysburg address


"The Gettysburg address was 272 words long and the 10 commandments had 313 words. Then why does it take 600 pages to explain how to fill out a government form." - Donna Moss, character in TV series "The West Wing."

I love that quote, don't you? Two of the most profound documents in human history were simple. And that simplicity equals impact and inspiration. It's also important in learning.

According to many researchers, our brain is not built as a repository for facts. Rather it is a survival mechanism to absorb inputs quickly and make decisions. Inputs (learning) then have to be simple and well formed to make an impression.

Mention a couple of names and they automatically bring a vision of simplicity - Apple, Uber, Google. Their products are simple, easy to use and don't get in the way of the work being done. Google tamed the unruly internet with one field. Uber has simplified a difficult process into two clicks.

Simplicity comes at a price. It can take years to distill a design down to it's essence. It also means other projects are set aside or scrapped. There is not enough time for both. Years ago I worked with an experienced architect who reminded me, "Mark, to make something simple is very, very hard."

Conversely it's easy to keep adding content. "Throw enough mud on the wall and some of it will stick," goes the saying. How many learning materials have you seen use that same methodology. At times they also get bloated because the software or process they describe is poorly designed. And it actually takes "600 pages to describe how to fill out a form."

Learning professionals are constantly working to simplify and connect in order to inspire. Remember the Gettysburg Address and express it simply.

Haven't you seen the same? Do you have a simplicity story?


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