Does simplicity limit understanding? I have been going back and forth on this question for awhile.
On one hand, a set of simple statements is easier to communicate, can lead to some interesting open-ended answers and go directions that could ultimately be really helpful in getting to answers to real (as opposed to perceived…) problems. Also, given the ability of many to “chunk” information this way, as opposed to having to parse it themselves, it can mean that meaning is more directly met.
However, I wonder how much context is lost. A quote attributed to Albert Einstein, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.” is a guide in these circumstances.
How might a statement be too simple? I’ll use a pretty well known example: Nike‘s well known tag line “Just Do It“. As an encouragement to get past the inhibitions you might have, it is a straight-forward call to personal action. But what kind of action? Not everything I consider doing is something I ought to do. If I’m considering participating in a fund-raiser for a local coffee house that supports at-risk youth, it works. If I’m considering loading all my weapons into my car and heading to the mall for some long-simmering revenge, it doesn’t work so well.
So, how do you give context to the simple? Do you “de-simplify” it somewhat and provide a condition? Does that become “Just Do It, As Long As It Is Socially Acceptable“? What happens to civil disobedience or creative efforts at the edge of the society in which you reside? Or does it become “Just Do It, If You Think It’s OK“? Depending on the society, culture, self-control and mental health of the one thinking, “OK” could fall along a pretty wide range, and not all of it constructive.
So now what? I feel that messages do not happen in a vacuum. The context is set up by your prevailing presence and voice….the messaging surrounding the message. Consistency and a certain regular palette that makes up your voice is a foundation. That isn’t to say you can never go charging into a new area of interest or a topic that just pops up, but if your voice remains the same, then whatever you come up with, simple or not, is more likely to be understood.
That’s what I’m going for…understanding in the face of the limits of communication.