Ketchup and Complexity


I recently saw a subject line cross my inbox. “Boring Content = Boring Courses?” I felt compelled to answer with 2 words: Malcolm Gladwell.

As a writer, reader, and speaker I have always enjoyed the way the best-selling author of Blink and The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference takes complex ideas from performance prediction to behavioral economics and, through the magic of his insatiable curiosity, wide-ranging interest in seemingly everything, and his incredible storytelling chops, transforms the potentially “boring content” into readable, digestible lessons. With the aid of the everyday from ketchup to Dijon mustard, hush puppies to falling crime rates, his books are readable, relatable, and the lessons he provides are memorable and fun.

So, my answer to the question about boring content? There is no “boring content”, only a boring mind approaching the content and trying to teach it. Take the equals sign out of the equation. So-called boring content tells me that the lesson is being prepared without imagination, creativity, or the ability to take the mundane and transform it into the amazing. If the teacher cannot get excited about the idea, the result will be boring content. If the lesson does not help turn the complex into the understandable parts and then rebuilds it back into a complex whole, the lesson creator is not getting the job done.

It’s really all about mindset. I am forever amazed by the commonplace, everyday things, the way things work, the connections between initially disparate parts. I cannot imagine writing a boring lesson or giving a boring presentation since I cannot imagine being bored. Take a page – any page actually – from Gladwell and see how Big Ideas can be made understandable and enjoyable. There are other writers who do the same. Find them, read them, copy the way they look at the complex world, and study how they write about it. Learn how they use the alchemy of their words to transform the Big Ideas into tasty bite-sized pieces that can be easily chewed, digested, and remembered.

They all fit into the following definition.

“The definition of genius is taking the complex and making it simple.” — Albert Einstein




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