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What Would Mickey Do?

By Dr. Burt Smith January 9th, 2010

chalk_board.jpgOne of my favorite books by one of my favorite authors is Jack Trout’s The Power of Simplicity. The book gives over 200 pages worth of reasons for keeping things simple rather than making them unnecessarily complicated.

Sticking with our “favorites” theme, I’ll use one of my favorite professors as an example. Mickey Cowan is one of the greatest accounting professors who ever lived. I know this not only because I’ve seen him in action, but because I’ve lost track of the number of accountants I’ve ran into as I’m networking in the marketplace who have eagerly shared how the wisdom he imparted upon them shaped their careers, and many of these folks have some very high ranking positions. He’s not just a hit with the accounting majors, either. I know a bunch of marketing professionals who consider the time they spent with him to be among their most valuable education. This is significant because marketers are typically considered the natural enemy of accountants, the practice of accounting, and accounting professors!

He’s managed to stay on top of the game for over 30 years in the classroom, and while he’s done a remarkable job of staying on top of the constantly changing regulations, laws, and accounting gobblity gook, very little about his approach to teaching has changed. He still prefers a whiteboard and marker to a laptop and Power Point slides. He introduces a concept, works it out on the board, and illustrates each concept with an example. Usually the example involves a real-world application of some kind in the form of a story that is unique, vivid, memorable, and often really funny.

Anyone who’s ever tempted to scoff at his low-tech approach is quickly humbled when they partake of one of his lectures, though. His ability to articulate so passionately is really something to behold! His approach is powerfully simple, yet powerfully, simply valuable because it connects with the audience. I’m sure if the day comes that a more complicated approach using Power Point or some other technological tool works better, Mickey will quickly adopt it. Until then, he’s wisely going to stick with what works. A simple, proven approach.

As you are building your brand, you can keep everything powerfully simple by focusing on value! Before you get caught up chasing every little fad or new idea, or changing this or that in an effort to look more hip, more clever, or just because you want to, think about your customers and what they value. Rarely is the customer going to ask for complexity.  What they want is VALUE and the simpler way they can get it, the better!

The business schools reward difficult, complex behavior more than simple behavior, but simple behavior is more effective.” – Warren Buffett

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