Friday, May 6, 2011

Is your message too complicated?

If so, it may need to be simplified. Consider the following brief exchange written by Douglas Adams for the Pirate Planet episode of the Doctor Who science fiction television series. Only the first 33 seconds are shown correctly in the video clip.

“Mr. Fibuli: ‘Captain, Sir.’

Nurse (interrupting) ‘Yes.’

Pirate Captain: ‘Speak, Mr. Fiibuli.’

Mr. Fibuli: ‘The pyschic interference transmitter, Sir. There seems to be something counter jamming it.’

Pirate Captain: ‘What! We dematerialize in three minutes. (Speaks on public address system) All guards on alert. Someone is using a counter jamming frequency projector. Find it, and destroy it immediately.’

Mr. Fibuli: ‘Captain, do you suppose any of the guards know what a counter jamming frequency projector looks like?’

Pirate Captain: (speaks on public address system, again) ‘Destroy everything!’ ”

In his memoir, Adventures of a Bystander, Peter Drucker tells the following business story about his working in London for Ernest Freedberg:

“I came in with an elaborate proposal to acquire majority control of an ailing company and reorganize it. ‘Very interesting,’ said Freedberg. ‘Let’s call in Lewis and try your proposal on him.’ ‘But, Mr. Freedberg,’ I said, ‘Lewis is the youngest clerk in bookkeeping and, as you observed only a few days ago, a near-moron.’ ‘Exactly,’ said Freedberg. ‘If he can understand your proposal, we’ll do it. If he doesn’t, it’s too complicated to work. Everything has to be moron-proof, for work is always in the end done by morons.’”

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