The Simple Stick

The tale of the simple stick

Once upon a time, in a world not unlike ours, lived Sam, an inventor always on the hunt for complex solutions to solve problems. Intricate gadgets, intricate systems—you name it, Sam made it.

One day, Sam stumbled upon a concept called “First Principles Thinking.” An old quote by Albert Einstein echoed in Sam’s mind: “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

Sam wondered, “How can I apply this ‘First Principles Thinking’ to improve my inventions?”

The encounter with the sage

While pondering this thought on a walk through a mystical forest, Sam met Sage Elara, known for her wisdom in the power of simplicity.

“I hear you’re an inventor,” said Elara, holding a wooden stick in her hands. “Ever thought of hitting your projects with the ‘Simple Stick’?”

“The Simple Stick?” Sam was intrigued.

What is the simple stick?

Elara swung the stick gently in the air. “Imagine this stick can turn complex things into simpler, more efficient versions of themselves. But the magic isn’t in the stick; it’s in your mind. The ‘Simple Stick’ is a metaphor for First Principles Thinking.”

First principles thinking

First Principles Thinking asks you to break things down to their fundamental truths and rebuild them,” Elara continued. “It’s like deconstructing a complex machine into its basic components. You remove the excess, keep the essential, and then reconstruct it.”

The experiment

Armed with this wisdom, Sam returned to the workshop. A complex coffee machine prototype was sitting there. Sam broke it down into its fundamental parts: water reservoir, boiler, coffee grounds container, and delivery system.

“Why do we need a separate boiler?” Sam pondered. “What if the reservoir itself could heat the water?”

And just like that, a more efficient coffee machine was born. It was simpler, had fewer parts, and did its job more effectively.

The transformation

Sam applied the ‘Simple Stick’ approach to all inventions thereafter. Complexity reduced, efficiency increased, and the world took notice.

Sam became a legend in the innovation world, not for intricate systems, but for the elegant simplicity of design.

Hitting your projects with the ‘Simple Stick’ through First Principles Thinking is more than a sage’s advice—it’s a philosophy that can transform your work and life. It forces you to deconstruct complexity and reconstruct it in a more focused and efficient way.

So the next time you’re faced with something convoluted, remember to wield your own ‘Simple Stick’ and get back to basics.

Read an extract from the book Insanely Simple: The Obsession that Drives Apple’s Success by Ken Segall about the origin of the Simple Stick expression.

By stripping away the unnecessary and focusing on what’s essential, we can turn complexity into simplicity, and make something not just different, but better.

Also read Keep things simple