The Ramones on Simplistic Communication


One of the most difficult endeavors for smart, hard working leaders is to communicate complex ideas in the simplest possible manner. You aren’t doing this because your staff are less intelligent; you are utilizing uncomplicated vocabulary because most people do not have your level of context, experience, or expertise. It’s like being The Ramones of your workplace.

The Ramones are one of the original punk bands from the 1970s punk rock movement. Besides being one of my all-time favorite bands, they are listed among Rolling Stone’s “100 Greatest Artists of All Time” and VH1’s “100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock.” Spin magazine ranked The Ramones as the second greatest band of all time and they received the Grammy’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011.

One reason The Ramones were so great is their definitive sound. Unlike the popular music of the time, their style was based upon a simplified ensemble of high energy melodies with straightforward lyrics. The Ramones avoided being heavily produced, instead opting for an approach where you feel as if you are listening to them in a garage. This makes their songs intimate, down-to-earth, and relatable.

In 1974 everything was tenth-generation Elton John, or overproduced, or just junk. Everything was long jams, long guitar solos… We missed music like it used to be.—Joey Ramone

Intimate, down-to-earth, and relatable is how we should all strive to communicate. We may know bigger words and the minute intricacies of our intentions, but this does not make you appear intelligent; it makes you appear disconnected from the culture.

[The Ramones] pared things down to greatest simplicity, and do as well as they could to find basic truth.—Marc Miller, “punk curator” for the Queens Museum

In his TEDTalk Towards a Science of Simplicity, Harvard professor George Whitesides broke ‘simple’ into three characteristics:

  1. They are predictable
  2. They are accessible
  3. They serve as building blocks

Simple ideas are predictable so people can foresee the future and help make it happen. Simple ideas are accessible so people find them to be probable and winnable. And simple ideas serve as building blocks so people can learn in an organized, strategic manner where each new concept builds on an already understood concept.

There are plenty of leaders whose messages are long-winded and overly edited to the point where sincerity (and clarity) are lost. Dub yourself Leader Ramone and communicate in spurts of simple thoughts. Your team will buy-in more quickly with more engagement and more comprehension. A straightforward approach will also enhance the alignment of the teams’ expectations and enrich their level of trust in your leadership abilities.

Hey! Ho! Let’s go!

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