[OUTLOOK]Using the power of simplicity

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[OUTLOOK]Using the power of simplicity

Gwangtong-gyo, the bridge that crosses the Cheonggyecheon stream, was recently restored after its dismantlement 95 years ago. The stream, which runs east to west across the center of Seoul, is now almost fully restored, with Gwangtong-gyo in its old place. This is a story from the time when Seoul Mayor Lee Myung-bak was close to and shared joy and sorrow with Chung Ju-young, the founder of the Hyundai Group.
Mr. Chung was a man of “ten-thousand good ideas.” Although he was not well educated, he had so many good ideas that he endlessly identified and solved new problems. When people saw how then-president of the company, Mr. Lee, survived throughout the hardships and twist and turns of company life under Mr. Chung, they started saying, “It seems that Mr. Lee has at least nine-thousand good ideas.”
Upon hearing this, Mr. Lee waved his hand in denial and said, “I do not have nine-thousand good ideas, and nine-thousand ideas cannot match ten-thousand ideas. The reason why I could endure Mr. Chung’s ten-thousand good ideas is because I had one good idea.”
This is correct. The only thing that can handle ten-thousand good ideas is one single good idea. Simplicity can help a person work his way through complex situations and survive. There is power in simplicity.
“Amateurs make problems complex and professionals simplify problems,” remarked Carlos Ghon, the chairman of Nissan, who was one of the most prominent businessmen of Japan’s Heisei generation and who rescued Nissan from collapse.
The definitive difference between an amateur and a professional is the ability to simplify things. The power of simplification can be tested by untangling a knotty string or making a pile of logs stuck in a river float smoothly again.
If you want to hit a strike ― taking down all ten pins in bowling ― you have to take down the number one pin, which stands in the middle. The number one pin is called the “kingpin.” The kingpin theory works in real life, too. When you transport logs that were cut down from the forest by floating them on a river, the logs always get clogged up somewhere along the way.
In order to solve this problem, you have to find the log that got caught in the first place ― the kingpin log. Removing that one log will allow the pile to move along smoothly once again. The ability to find the kingpin and remove it is the ability to simplify things.
Dwight Eisenhower, who successfully carried out the landing of allied forces in Normandy in the largest military operation in history 61 years ago, was a master of simplification. Eisenhower was able to successfully accomplish his complex Normandy plan through his own rule of simplification.
What then was Eisenhower’s rule? It was, of course, quite simple. Eisenhower always divided his desk into four. In these four parts he always placed things to throw away on the first section, to order on the second, to get help on the third, and what needs to be done now on the fourth. Mr. Eisenhower also used his simplification rule to some effect later, when he became the president of the United States and led the country for eight years.
It was thanks to this rule that Mr. Eisenhower is remembered as the U.S. president who performed his duties more smoothly and effectively than any other leader. Still, the United States enjoyed its greatest period of prosperity for the eight years he was commander-in-chief.
President Roh Moo-hyun has spent half of his time in office right now. Excluding the time in which things will get chaotic once again due to the coming elections, he has just over a year left in which to work. People probably have a lot of things to ask of the president, but I would like to ask him to simplify things instead of making them complex, at least for the remaining time of his term. People’s lives are already complicated enough. Is it necessary for even the president to make things more complicated than is necessary?
Stop creating new problems by calling for a coalition government, or pardoning criminals of past wrongdoings whenever there is an opportunity to do so. Instead, just look for the kingpin and take it out. It is not necessary to imitate others and pretend to have ten-thousand good ideas. Just go for one good idea instead.
I also hope he will throw away his pride, stop making things worse the next day by trying to squeeze out a good idea till late in the night alone. I hope he orders things that need to be ordered, asks for help when he needs it, and talks less. That is the most simple but surefire way for the president, the people and the country to live well.

* The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.


by Chung Jin-hong

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