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The relevance of Occam’s Razor


I have three children, aged 11, nine and seven. When they see their friends, the first thing they do is a massively complicated handshake.

I say handshake but it involves fist pumps, pretend hits, hip swivels and things I can’t begin to name. You know what I mean.

These handshakes are fun, clearly, and help cement friendships. The complexity is the whole attraction.

It’s different for adults. We have to think about so much, starting with feeding our offspring – if we have them – and ourselves, paying the rent or mortgage, have we paid the water bill, does the car need a service, what are the plans for the weekend, how many likes did my Insta post get. And that’s all before we even start thinking about work.

Children don’t have all those things bubbling around which is why they can invent their wonderful greetings. But adults do.

And that’s why the concept of Occam’s Razor is important. William of Occam was an English monk and philosopher in the 14thcentury. Basically speaking, he said that if you could reach the same end using complex solution or a simple one, you should always use the simple solution. And that’s the approach we take when we advise our clients on how they position themselves.

It’s a cliché to say we live in a very busy world but it’s a cliché because it’s true. It’s hard to cut through all the noise to get your messages to your target audiences.

We all have information flying at us from every angle, much more than we can possibly cope with. If you want to persuade someone to do something different – ultimately buy your product or service – you need to present it to them in a way that is easy for them to understand and that has a simple call to action.

That’s much harder than it sounds. Mark Twain famously apologised for writing a long letter because he didn’t have time to write a short one. The same principle applies.

It’s not easy to refine your complex proposition to make it sound simple. But unless you apply Occam’s Razor, you’ll struggle to make yourself heard.

Charlie Pryor

Senior Advisor, International Communications, based in London

Charlie is an experienced communications consultant who started Leidar UK in 2010. He is responsible for developing and implementing communications strategies for companies and organisations of all sizes and in many different sectors.

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