Why Simple Rules Produce Better Decisions


Defining simple rules

“Chains of habits are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.”

[Warren Buffet]

As our world has become more complex, so have our attempts to manage it by trying to predict ahead of time every possible scenario. Little by little, we have gotten into the habit of upping the ante on complexity with more complexity.

The habit is felt more strongly inside organizations where regulations and procedures can keep building on top of each other unchecked to unmanageable proportions. The tax code is a good example of this.

Instead of trying to cover all bases, say Donald Sull and Kathleen Eisenhardt in Simple Rules: How to Thrive in a Complex World, we should use a small set of simple rules — “shortcut strategies that save time and effort by focusing our attention and simplifying the way we process information.”

The authors’ definition of strategy thus is:

Strategy, in our view, lives in the simple rules that guide an organization’s most important activities.

Simple rules are those rules that are fundamental to achieving successful outcomes.

Why do simple rules work?

Because they do three things well. They:

  • confer flexibility to pursue new opportunities while maintaining some consistency
  • can produce better decisions — when information is limited and time is short, simple rules make it fast and easy for people, organizations, and governments to make sound choices
  • allow the members of a community to synchronize their activities with one another on the fly — as a result, communities can do things that would be impossible for their individual members to achieve on their own

What are the common traits of simple rules?

 1. they are limited to a handful — to maintain the focus on what matters most and be memorable

2. they are tailored to the person or organization using them — for example, a nutrition program designed to lose weight is different from one used for athletic performance

3. they apply to a well-defined activity or decision — trying to cover all bases injects vagueness and dilutes their impact

4. they provide clear guidance while conferring the latitude to exercise discretion — so that we can exercise judgement

To sum it up, simple rules:

refers to a handful of guidelines tailored to the user and task at hand, which balance concrete guidance with the freedom to exercise judgement.

If simple rules help solve complex problems, why aren’t they more common? First among the reasons is that simplicity requires time and effort to achieve. As Blaise Pascal wrote, “I have made this letter longer than usual, only because I have not had the time to make it shorter.”

The first obstacle is the effort required to develop simple rules. Like most worthwhile endeavors, it takes time and energy to get them right. The process of developing simple rules requires ruthless prioritization — honing in on the essential and decluttering the peripheral.


When explaining how he led Apple’s resurgence from near bankruptcy, Steve Jobs emphasized the power of simplicity. “You have to work hard to get your thinking clear to make it simple,” Jobs said. “But it is worth it in the end because once you get there you can move mountains.”


The third obstacle to simplicity is what we call the “myth of requisite complexity,” the mistaken belief that complex problems demand complicated solutions.

We rarely challenge that assumption because we forego expanding our options. One of those options is trust in human nature. Many organizations, for example, create and maintain detailed human resources policies that create “this is the way we do things here” type environments. Often, they go unchallenged for years.

After studying their human resources policies, executives at Netflix determined that 97 percent of their employees where trustworthy. Nearly all of the company’s time writing, monitoring, and enforcing detailed personnel policies was directed at the remaining 3 percent.

Rather than continue to produce binders of detailed regulations, Netflix executives concentrated on not hiring people who would cause problems, and removing them quickly when hiring mistakes were made. This change allowed the company to replace thick manuals with simple rules.

The company’s policy for expenses, travel, gifts, and conducting personal business at work, for example, was reduced to four rules: (1) expense what you would not otherwise spend, (2) travel as if it were your own money, (3) disclose nontrivial gifts from vendors, and (4) do personal stuff at work when it is inefficient not to.

Rather than counter complexity with complexity of our own making, we should seek to sharpen the quality of our thinking and our decision-making ability.

The process to craft simple rules starts with understanding what moves the needles and identifying the bottleneck. Testing and refining through use help improve the rules by adapting them to new conditions.


Conversation Agent – Valeria Maltoni


7 Lessons To Help You Produce Content That Converts



Author: Nischala Murthy Kaushik

According to Gartner, content marketing ranks among the Top 5 trends in the space of digital marketing in 2015. For brands and organizations, the ability to “build a content marketing supply chain and determine how to create, curate and cultivate content” is critical. Because of the rise of content as a critical element of marketing, “content is the most important thing that marketers do”.

It is obvious that every content marketer aspires to consistently publish “content that converts”.

But what exactly is content that converts? Simply put, content that converts uses content as the way to achieve objectives. These objectives can range from brand awareness to lead generation, to user/customer engagement, to sales, to lead nurturing, to social advocacy, and to professional networking. The thing about objectives is that they are always specific to your context—whether you are an individual or a business.

As I look back at my own journey as a content marketer, I’m happy with the impact of many of my B2B content marketing initiatives. From building global brand awareness and industry mind-share, to lead generation and social shares/engagement and advocacy, there have been some good innings.

I’ve learned that everyone wants to know the answer to this question:

What were the key factors which made a difference in the journey?”

And, from my perspective, I can distinctly see seven key points. I recognize that first-hand experience has taught me these lessons—primarily because of a willingness to learn, an eagerness to try, and an openness to fail. However, it would have been wonderful if someone had shared these insights with me at the onset.

In this blog, I’ll highlight the seven most important lessons that I wish I had known from the start, with the hope that my insight helps other content marketers create high-value content that coverts. Let’s get started…

1.     Define Your Content Conversion Metrics

“What gets measured, gets managed”. –Peter Drucker

This is true for almost everything in life, including content. Hence the most important step in any content journey is defining your content conversion metrics. Content conversion metrics are unique to your industry, nature of business, customer base, organization phase of growth, and marketing budgets. Therefore the metrics defined need to be unique and relevant to your specific context. Once the conversion metrics are finalized, they should be communicated with all key stakeholders.

For example, conversion metrics could be:

  • 100 downloads for a whitepaper
  • 25 email registrations for a service
  • 1,000+ social shares
  • Five leads

The most important aspect of the metrics definition is that they should be SMART (Simple, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Bound) and well communicated to all stakeholders.

2.     Have a Realistic Content Plan in Place

“Failing to plan is planning to fail”. –Alan Lakein

A content plan which covers all aspects of the content lifecycle is the key stepping stone for a successful content plan. Content lifecycle includes all phases from content ideation, creation, publishing, promotion, discovery, engagement, management, and reporting.

The key to success in any content plan is to know:

  • Who is the reader of your content? The clearer you are in your description of the demographics of the content reader, the better. For example, potential readers of this blog post could be digital marketers, CMOs, content authors, editors, publishers, content strategists, or social media managers.
  • What kind of content formats are popular with the target reader? Do your readers typically like visual communication like infographics or photos? Or do they prefer to read text in the form of blogs, whitepapers, and research articles?
  • Which channels/devices do they typically use to read content? Do your potential readers prefer to read on smartphone, laptop, or iPad? Or do they like to read print media, like the good ole newspaper?
  • Which content topics are trending and may be of value to your readers? Are new age digital marketers keen on knowing the latest product features of a new content automation tool, or would they prefer to read about case studies on which marketing strategies worked for other competing brands in the industry ecosystem?
  • What are the key drivers to convert your readers to potential buyers of your product/service/offering/solution? Are they looking for an easy-to-use subscription-based marketing automation solution, or would they prefer a comprehensive marketing technology suite for three years?

Bottom line: Your content strategy and plan need to be aligned to your answers to these questions accordingly.

The content plan should include details on:

Content Creation

  • The date that a content piece will be published
  • The content format (blog, video, infographic, etc.)
  • The content topics/themes
  • What needs to happen before it is published (in terms of the process for editing, reviews, approvals, SEO, etc.)

Content Publishing

  • Where will the content be published (corporate/personal site or blog) or a community/partner/analyst/media publishing forum?

Content Promotion

  • Which social channels will the content be promoted on? This should be based on your reader demographics.
  • How frequently should the content be shared?
  • How to best articulate the social shares so it works for a specific social channel
  • Which tools need to be leveraged for social sharing
  • Which individuals/enterprises need to be notified of the published content

3.     Execution Makes the Real Difference

According to the 2015 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America report, one of the key differentiating characteristics of great content marketers is that they consistently follow a documented content marketing strategy. So planning and execution are the two foundational pillars of effective content marketing. At the end of the day, how effective your content marketing is completely depends on what you actually do.

In my personal experience, to make content marketing happen, and happen well, knowledge and skills are of paramount importance. Aspects of content around storytelling, creativity, design, visualization, and articulation are what truly determines the impact of content initiatives.

4.     Leverage the Power of Tools and Technology

“Content and Technology are strange bed fellows. We are joined together. Sometimes we misunderstand each other. But isn’t that after all the definition of marriage?” –Howard Stringer

The number of tools and technology available to make content marketing faster, easier, and more effective is amazing. From deciding what to write about to coming up with the most effective title for a content piece to determining who are the influencers for a particular topic—tools and technology are a powerful boon. The key is to identify which technology and tools are relevant in your context…and to effectively use them.

5.     Track and Report Your Conversion Metrics

Constantly monitoring, tracking and reporting conversion metrics at regular intervals with all key stakeholders is the most important checkpoint in the content journey. With an ample number of social media listening/analytics/monitoring tools, it is important to identify the right tools for your context, define a frequency for reporting, and then start. Reporting on metrics doesn’t stop there, it’s crucial to spend time analyzing the metrics to draw actionable insights.

As a case in point, your content metrics could read as follows:


Based on the metrics above, you can identify that the time and effort required to create a blog is significantly less than an infographic or video. However, the infographics and videos may generate significantly more views. So as a content marketing team, you must decide on the content mix for next month. This process is continuous and is based on how your content is being received by readers and your teams capacity to develop content.

6.     Review and Refine Your Content Plan Based on Metrics

Based on the insights from your metrics, it is important to refine your content plan.

Simple rule of thumb is this: Whatever’s working; do more of it. Whatever’s not working; do less of it. Be flexible enough to test new things.

7.     Be Patient—Conversion Based on Content Takes Time

Conversion based on content takes time and focused efforts. Patience, persistence, and a positive outlook yield results. You may not be able to immediately see a conversion based on content, but if you are patient, you will see the impact of your content marketing.

That’s my view. What do you think is key to creating content that converts? What do you wish you had known before you got started with content marketing? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

7 Lessons To Help You Produce Content That Converts was posted at Marketo Marketing Blog – Best Practices and Thought Leadership. | http://blog.marketo.com

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