The one sentence summary

Smart leaders can defeat complexity by defining a simple mission, rallying everyone around it, and streamlining everything.


  • Smart leaders can defeat complexity in a variety of ways, but simplicity isn’t simple.
  • Commitment is the key – bringing simplicity to a company is not a part-time thing. Only the determined need apply.
  • Have a mission – a very simple one that simplifies what everyone does.
  • Observe – the role of the simplifier is to take a cold hard look at (a) the company’s organisation, (b) its processes, and (c) the customer experience.
  • Pick your team – simplicity is a team sport. You can’t do it on your own
  • Involve – make the workforce become part of the transformation. The simpler it is, the more people like it.
  • Be the customer – is the journey consistent, would the experience make you an evangelist, is the marketing focused, does the website achieve flow?
  • Clarify and aim high – people enjoy being part of a higher purpose.
  • Streamline everything: marketing, the org chart, and the approval process. Most companies have become too flabby.
  • Think like a start-up.
  • Leading for outcomes is the most effective approach.


  • Values are never a matter of degree. They are or they aren’t.
  • If you’re not committing to excellence, you’re committing to mediocrity.
  • Culture is caught, not taught.
  • In a distributed intelligence culture, people are empowered to make their own judgements.
  • There’s a difference between speed and velocity – speed means going fast, velocity means moving quickly toward a specified target. The latter makes people concentrate on the most important thing.
  • 25% of any employee’s effort is devoted to basic productivity – the minimum effort not to get fired. The remaining 75% is purely voluntary, and the amount of it they give depends on how enthused they are.
  • In the brand bank, every positive experience a customer has with the brand is a deposit in the bank, so all interactions count, for better or worse.
  • “Be quick, be quiet, be on time.” Kelly Johnson, Skunk Works


  • The advice here is effectively the same as in his previous book, Insanely Simple, but enhanced by a range of case histories.