Ockham’s razor

William of Ockham was a priest in Yorkshire in the 13th Century.
At the end of the middle ages he constantly taught a principal which became known as Ockham’s Razor.
It roughly translates from the Latin as follows.
“Do not multiply possibilities beyond necessity.”
Or, to put it simply:
“The simplest explanation is usually the right one.”
Don’t over-complicate things.
That doesn’t seem too controversial does it?
But that statement was influential in ending the dark ages and ushering in The Enlightenment.
Suddenly knowledge wasn’t the exclusive preserve of religion.
The most complicated, esoteric explanations didn’t work anymore.
Everything was now open to question.
Everything could be boiled down to reason.
And so rational mind took over from religious belief as the Gold Standard for knowledge.
Everything we take for granted, started from that sentence, 700 years ago.
And it’s so obvious we don’t even think about it.
Let’s see how we live up to it.
“Do not multiply possibilities beyond necessity.”
Is that truly our everyday experience in the business we’re in?
With marketing plans?
With strategy?
With research briefs?
With research debriefs?
With executions?
With media plans?
With thinking?
Three of my heroes agreed with William of Ockham.
Brian Clough, Bill Bernbach, and Ron Greenwood all said the same thing.
“Simplicity is genius”.
They all understood that complicated isn’t clever.
It just looks clever to stupid people.
To really be clever you have to go through complicated to get to simple.
You have to keep stripping everything back until you get to what’s essential.
The real genius isn’t adding more.
That keeps you stupid.
The real genius is to keep cutting away, and cutting away.
Until you can’t cut anymore.

That’s why it’s called Ockham’s Razor.

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    Currently searching eBay for a box of them. For our Planners.

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    I think one of the best examples of this ‘clarity’ in current advertising is the end-line in the Audi ad – mirror, signal, outmanoeuvre.

    That’s just so crisp and clean – it’s brilliant.

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    Is this the reason why the church seems stuck in the dark ages?

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    Interesting that a priests statement ushered in enlightenment. I’ve found no contradiction between rational thought and Christian faith. Its a dark age when religion is used to maintain power over others and suppress free, rational thinking.Thank God for enlightenment!

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    Dave, I’ve stripped everything right back and guess what? Now I look like one of those tiny baldy Chihuahuas. I’m gonna to have to stop reading your posts.

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    Hi Neville,
    Everyone from Descartes to Kant would agree with you.
    I think the Enlightenment was about separating reason from faith.
    It isn’t better or worse, it’s just different.
    Faith is about believing without proof (Jesus said something like that).
    Whereas reason is all about proof.
    That’s why great thinkers can still have different beliefs.
    Ed McCabe once wrote a great ad for the entire Volvo range.
    Volvo’s strapline for their campaign was “The Car For people Who Think”.
    Ed showed the entire range with the headline “Because not everyone who thinks, thinks alike”.

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    I’m having to hide my self away until it all grows back… Dave, hope u r proud of your self?

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    Don’t forget the great Bill Shankly, who also agreed with Ockham:

    “Football is a simple game complicated by fools”.

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    like so much truly great music – its the space in between that makes it great. Economy = Quality

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    George Orwell offered some rules for good writing, one of which was ‘if you can cut a word out, cut it out.’ If only our politicians would accept this!

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    Hi Dave,
    Was William of Ockham a 13th Century Sweeney Todd?

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    “PINGBACK – YOOOOOO SHALL NOT PASS!”

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    Pedants corner…Ockham might have been from Ockham in Surrey..