Win the Talent War: Bill Jensen
The Simplerwork Answer to Complex Times
His list of clients reads like the who’s who of the corporate world, including giants like NASA, Bank of America, Pfizer, US Navy Seals, and Shaw Communications. Bill Jensen is the founder of Simplerwork, the only professional services firm with tested tools and processes for creating simpler companies and helping people do their best work. He is a keynote speaker, consultant, and author of 8 books, the newest of which is Future Strong in which he shares secrets to help companies, organizations, teams, and individuals meet the future with confidence, using simple techniques that can transform the workplace.
Time-Stamped Show Notes
[00:00] Introduction to Bill Jensen, founder of Simplerwork.
[01:12] The inspiration behind Simplerwork.
[03:51] Implementing the 3 to 5 Rule to maximize employee engagement.
[07:38] Keeping it simple: Know, Feel, Do.
[13:17] Implementing the 3 by 5 Rule, not to be confused with the 3 to 5 Rule.
[16:56] Your crucible moments are key to living Future Strong.
[22:25] Diving into the 4 other aspects of living Future Strong.
[28:24] Advice to Jensen’s college-aged self.
The Basis of Simplerwork
Bill Jensen has invested 30 years into studying simplicity and the future of work. “Basically, we’re still making things way, way, way too complicated,” he says, “and way too hard for everybody to do their best.” Jensen has real-world tested ideas to help simplify your business life and prepare you and your team to become future strong through Simplerwork techniques and tweaks.
The Child’s Play that Started It All
While a student at Rochester Institute of Technology, Jensen visited the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto, Canada. It was not the spectacular exhibits that blew him away, but a bunch of kids playing with a maze and about 20 ping pong balls. The goal was to get just one to drop to the bottom, and he watched them miss the first time, and the second time, but the third time they got it. “At that moment, I realized the essence of simplicity. These kids were doing binary programming or thinking in logic, only they weren’t handed a textbook that was designed from the instructor’s perspective. They were given a game so they could figure it out at their level. The essence of simplicity is that human beings can solve any problem in the world, even an unbelievably complex problem if you organize the interface at their level.”
For children, that might be through a game, for adults, maybe a conversation, a manual, a process, or a procedure. “The essence of simplicity is empathy,” says Jensen, “working backwards from the needs of whoever is using your system, your app, or your product. It’s working backwards from the needs of the individual.”
Putting Simplicity to Work for You
Jensen believes that working backwards from the needs of the other person is about 80% of it. Companies try to design things that make them or their team successful. But it’s really about making the user successful. “In the research that I’ve done with over a million people around the globe, I would reduce everything down to two basic buckets in the world of simplicity. One is how we communicate with each other, and two is the systems, processes, and technology that we build to get stuff done.” The best change happens when every individual within the company accepts responsibility for their part in it.
Jensen emphasizes the importance of the 3 to 5 Rule. Communication is no longer driven by what you want to get to the person. It’s driven by their attention span. You have 3 to 5 seconds electronically and 3 to 5 minutes face-to-face to get to your point. If necessary, you could still take longer, but remember that everyone’s attention will start to dissipate within 3 to 5 seconds, or 3 to 5 minutes. “That means that if you’re running an hour-long meeting, you don’t have an hour-long meeting,” explains Jensen. “You have twelve 3 to 5 minute segments which you have to keep battling back for, so you change the tone of your voice, you talk faster, you talk louder, you talk softer, you throw in a joke, you put up a funny slide, you give a pause. Somehow, every 3 to 5 minutes you shift to recapture people’s attention.”
Communication Content: Know, Feel, Do
In matters of communication, Jensen says we need to think about 3 things: Know, Feel, and Do. These are the three things that everyone wants as fast as you can possibly give to them. The Know part is the information you want the other person to know. The Feel part is why you think they should care about it. The Do part is the action you would like them to take. That comes from a change management model known commonly as Head, Heart, Hands.
Another number Jensen wants us to remember is 1,440. That’s how many minutes we each get in a day. “The only way you achieve everything you do is that you use a portion of someone else’s life to get your work done,” he says. Keeping that in mind, it is easy to see why it is important that when we communicate with others, we are respectful of their time.
Recently, Jensen did a Disrupt HR presentation. Like the other speakers, he was given only 5 minutes. Most of the others struggled to nail their talk within 5 minutes. However, Jensen practiced to nail it in 4, to try to give the audience back that last minute. “As a keynote speaker,” he says, “one of the things I’m asked to do is stick to 45 minutes. I always aspire to nail it within 43 and give everybody back 2 minutes of their life. And believe it or not, that is one of the most memorable things for them, no matter what I said in the preceding 43 minutes.”
Here are some of Jensen’s basic guidelines for written communication, such as emails:
- Don’t c.c. people. He contends most c.c.s are a waste of time, so only send the email to those who really need to see it.
- Make sure your email is action-driven. Stop sending so many FYI communications.
- If you have multiple people on your list, begin your header by saying “Ryan, Jane and Joe, this is just FYI. Mary, Susie, these are the actions you must take.” Spell it out for people.
- Jensen strongly recommends following the 3 by 5 Rule. Most people are reading on their phone. If you take the whole square inch size of an email, it should max out at the size of a 3×5 card. He says that is the maximum amount of space that anybody can easily skim. And when you’re writing an email, write for skimming, not reading.
- If you need to send something longer, add an attachment or a link.
5 Keys to Being Future Strong
In his conversations with people around the globe, he found an agreement that the future appears disruptive, and that everything is changing minute by minute. He asks people how they stay on top of it. From these conversations, he formulated 5 keys to thrive and survive in a disruptive future environment:
- Know yourself, discover your inner truths, and find your crucible moments.
- Soul on Fire. It’s all about passion. Find your courage.
- Humble Self. How will you choose to be vulnerable?
- Sacrifice is something you can choose for yourself.
- Reliance. Who do I choose to have my back?
Advice to His College-Aged Self
“Know you. It really is that simple and that hard,” says Jensen. “The hardest journey we go through in our lives is really understanding who we are.”