…unleash the power of simple. I think there is a tremendous opportunity for us all to do more by doing less. We can achieve professional goals while optimizing personal priorities like family, health and religion. It just requires careful design and discipline — learn more by reading the book 🙂
I had the pleasure of interviewing Jesse W. Newton. Jesse Newton is the author of Simplify Work; Crushing Complexity to Liberate Innovation, Productivity and Engagement. He is the founder and CEO of Simplify Work; a global management consulting firm that helps organizations throw off the shackles of debilitating complexity and reignite top performance.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share a story about what brought you to this particular career path?
Sure, thanks for having me. While at University I discovered the topics of strategy and organizational behavior and fell in love with them. Naturally, I sought out a profession where I could focus on these topics and quickly discovered consulting. Fast forward 15 years and I have consulted with over 100 companies and have worked across Asia Pacific, Europe and North America. I feel very lucky that I’m able to do what I love.
Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?
I have one funny story. Soon after transferring from Sydney (I’m from New Zealand) to Chicago I started a project at a coal mining company in South Western Virginia. Two days in I was presenting to a medium sized group when one of the employees stood up, remarked on my funny accent and asked if I was from Alabama! Needless to say, I found this pretty amusing and replied that I was from much further South than Alabama.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I’m not sure this mistake was too funny to me at the time but certainly one that I learned from. Upon arrival in Singapore for a new project I had an initial meet and greet with a client leader. The client, of Chinese descent, greeted me with a handshake and then I had a business card on me and slid it across the table to him. He then handed me his business card with both hands with strong eye contact. I immediately realized I had totally butchered the introduction by nonchalantly sliding my card across the table and had probably really insulted him. I learned to do a lot more cultural research when visiting new countries and cultures in the future.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I’m working with a rapidly growing insurance company to help them build out their organization design capabilities. I’m also working with a large hospital in their HR department. They are looking to strip out complexity and get re-focused on the top strategic priorities.
Can you share the most interesting story that you shared in your book?
While working with a large global consumer packaged goods company a massive cyber-attack happened. Literally the entire organization (100,000+ employees) was crippled. No one could get online, email or access their calendar. And the outage lasted more than two weeks! Upon regaining connectivity I was startled to hear that people found the outage liberating. They no longer had to attend numerous low value meetings or produce reports. They instead could focus their time on their important work, connect directly with key people or groups, and simply focus a lot better. This was very eye opening on the problem that complexity can have on organizations.
What is the main empowering lesson you want your readers to take away after finishing your book?
I would love for people to finish my book feeling inspired and excited about the new reality they can create in their organization and life. Do not accept traditional ways of working, question why things are the way they are, especially if they feel time consuming, confusing or painful. Simplifying either work or your life frees us of all the things that get in the way of the stuff that really matters. Time is so scarce that we need to protect it and use it for the most impactful priorities.
Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?
Early explorers really inspire me. Sailors like Captain James Cook who was the first to navigate New Zealand come to mind. Can you imagine setting out into the unknown and not knowing how long you’ll be gone, what you’ll find or even if you’ll come back? There must have been many naysayers and doubters and these individuals would have bravely persevered. These explorers possess certain characteristics that we need to encourage today if we as a society are to continue making new discoveries that can enhance the human experience.
Which literature do you draw inspiration from? Why?
I gravitate to autobiographies / biographies or other non-fiction text. I love to learn, especially from successful people, so I try to read as much of these types of texts as I can.
How do you think your writing makes an impact in the world?
I think the idea of “simplifying” is a very important one for the world today. We are on the first step of the fourth industrial revolution with emerging artificial intelligence, internet of things and big data developments offering new automation and insight generation capabilities. But we have not yet realized the productivity step — change that previous industrial revolutions delivered. I believe that debilitating complexity is holding us back from achieving this potential. My book can open peoples’ eyes to how complexity is inhibiting peak performance and introduce steps that can be taken to throw off the shackles of this virus.
What advice would you give to someone considering becoming an author like you?
Find what you really love, build a plan and then be disciplined in the development. If you pursue a topic you really love it’ll be a lot of fun researching it and writing about it. You’ll need a good, realistic plan so that you can timebox key activities like research and production of the chapters. Finally, actually sitting down and writing can be challenging. You need to be quite disciplined about getting through it. Frequent changes of scenery helped me staying engaged with it. Yes, I was that guy sitting in the café tapping away on my laptop.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Ah… thank-you. The idea would certainly be the opportunity to unleash the power of simple. I think there is a tremendous opportunity for us all to do more by doing less. We can achieve professional goals while optimizing personal priorities like family, health and religion. It just requires careful design and discipline — learn more by reading the book 🙂
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
5 things is too many, I’ll do one big one:
Seek out opportunities that put you out of your comfort zone. I find time and time again when I bravely do things outside my comfort zone good things happen. It is very easy to get comfortable and not do anything that causes nervousness or anxiety. But when you do these things you learn the most and the big opportunities emerge.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this, especially if we tag them 🙂
I’d love to meet with Jeff Bezos. I’d love to learn how he created such a large organization that continues to achieve incredible breakthrough innovation.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Here are my links:
Thank you so much for this. This was very inspiring!