Enhance Productivity and Efficiency with Stephen’s Innovation Insights

Innovation Insights by Stephen Shapiro

penn-teller-fool-usOne of my favorite TV shows is Penn & Teller’s “Fool Us.”

Each week, aspiring magicians perform their best trick, hoping to fool P&T. Anyone who succeeds wins the right to perform with famed duo in their Las Vegas show.

As an amateur magician, I see if I can figure out how each trick was done.

Here’s what I find quite interesting…

The tricks that require the most skill and years of mastery are rarely the ones that fool Penn & Teller.

The simplest effects are the ones they can’t figure out. And are the ones that the audience enjoys the most.

In one episode, Graham Jolley did a trick where the jokers “talked” to him and told him the position of 2 freely selected cards. The effect was fun to watch. It was slowly executed and easy to follow. The result was truly magical. And Penn and Teller had absolutely no idea how he did it.

And yet this is a trick I can easily perform. It requires no sleight of hand. The method was written up in a book I have that was published nearly 15 years ago. Any beginner could perform it with 10 minutes of practice, just as I did.

On the other hand, there was Michael Vincent, a world-class card manipulator with 40 years of practice under his belt. His moves were quick and masterful. Beautiful. Complex and sometimes a bit hard to follow. I will never in my lifetime be able to do sleights the way he did. And guess what, he did not fool the dynamic duo.

There are so many lessons in this example.

For those of you who speak – professionally or as part of your job – please remember that more is not better. A common pitfall is to want to show the audience how much you know by cramming in a lot of content. Unfortunately this only serves to overwhelm and confuse people. Although I could appreciate Michael’s moves, I actually enjoyed Graham’s performance more. It was so easy to see what he was doing that the result was mind blowing. Avoid the desire to make your content complex. Simplify your message.

This also applies to the world of innovation. Don’t assume a product with more features and functions is better. Just because you have the ability to create new technologies that can perform thousands of tasks, doesn’t mean you should. Most consumers prefer simple and easy to understand products.

Of course in the real world we are not looking to fool our audiences or customers. We want to engage them. Entertain them. Thrill them.

And for that, simple beats complex every day.

Or as Antoine de Saint-Exupery, author of The Little Prince, once said, “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

P.S. You can watch one of Michael’s performance here. Sadly I could not find a video of Graham’s, but you can always buy the episode on iTunes.

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