Originally from the archetype of the Italian Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci, these words have resonated with many visionaries ever since. Perhaps most notably, Steve Jobs adopted this quote as Apple’s design mantra. It was Jobs whom this year’s Corporate Counsel University presenter Samuel Gasowski was talking about when he dropped the line in Session 100, on contract negotiation. Sitting in the back of the room taking notes, I had an “aha moment.” How many challenges — at work and home — could I better tackle if I focused on simplifying? The answer was suddenly obvious: all of them.
As I continued to listen to Gasowski, DTS Inc.’s senior counsel – Business & Legal Affairs, and his co-presenter David Mowry, senior counsel of Xerox Corporation, I paid close attention to their negotiation tips that aligned with simplifying. There were many, and they transcend contracts. Here are a few that we can all apply to everyday transactions and communications:
- Brevity is underutilized. “You don’t need ‘wherewithals’ or ‘hereinafters.’ The shorter, the better, as long as your bases are covered,” said Mowry. “And then you can negotiate, and not be focused on language issues.”
- Preparation is key. Be familiar with every term. Benchmark and know the standards so you don’t stand out as difficult to work with. You can also use the standards to justify your position.
- Know your priorities. “Don’t demand everything,” said Gasowski. “Make a list of must-haves, would-like-to-haves, and not important items.”
- Only bring “need to know” people to the table. Avoid input from those who are not fully informed on the issues.
- Be nice. “The smartest attorney I’ve ever dealt with knew everything about her contract. She was exceedingly tough, but a delight to work with,” said Mowry. “We were able to finish a global deal that should have taken months, in two weeks.”
- Finish the job and move on. “Learn how to accept risk,” said Mowry. “You need to be able to pull the trigger even when your stomach isn’t perfectly settled.”
The session ended with another reference to Apple’s philosophy, which Gasowski paraphrased: “If you want to be sophisticated in your business, then everything you do and show must echo that.” He drove home the importance of leading by example, and walking your talk. And on those days when simplicity and sophistication feel out of reach, we might refer to the less poetic adage, and “fake it till we make it.”