05/17/2013 11:51 am ET Updated Jul 17, 2013

What Does Simplicate Mean Exactly?

"Simplify, Simplify, Simplify!" - Thoreau

"I think one simplify would have sufficed." - Emerson


Being overwhelmed today is like brushing your teeth. Everyone is overwhelmed. And if you are not, you'd better pretend to be.

Email. Facebook. YouTube. Twitter. LinkedIn. Newsfeeds. Blogging. Microblogging.

Downright complicated.

With all that is available to us, what we really struggle with is what Clay Shirky calls filter failure. Where should we put our attention? After all, we are where our attention takes us.

We are our attention.

If our attention is fragmented, we are fragmented. If our attention is focused, we are focused.

In this interview, Timberland President Patrik Frisk helps us focus our attention to achieve more of what we want, and less of what we don't, in life and business.

Q. You often urge others to simplicate. What does simplicate mean exactly?

A. Simplicate means to understand why you're in business. Zoom out and ask yourself: What? Why?

Pull back to the origin, back to the basics. And refine through that filter. In the case of Timberland, for example, we focus on designing, making, and selling great boots, in a way that provides benefit to all our stakeholders.

Force yourself to simplicate. Instead of adding layers until you no longer know what you're trying to do, you have to peel them back and go to the core.

Simplication is really about improvement. It's about the choices you make. Strategy is all about making choices. You can make many different choices about what to do.

The hardest choices involve deciding what not to do.

Simplicating is often more difficult than complicating, because it requires you to stay focused on the things you can affect, without getting distracted by those you can't.


Q. Earlier in your career, you were an entrepreneur. What's your advice to this growing professional category, both inside and outside the corporate world?

A. Be stubborn enough to pursue your vision, but always be open to other people's point of view. It's a juggling act that requires an evergreen idea or product and the tenacity to pursue advice from as many sources as possible - banks, lawyers, business people, and other entrepreneurs.

Seek out this advice and listen, really listen.

Listen and distill the learnings in a way that is tailored to your offering. To sell your idea or vision to other people, it has to be very clear.

Then, take action on that vision.


Q. Over your desk hangs the sign, "If you don't grow, you die." What's that about?

A. Unless you grow, you will whither away and die. You can grow in many ways, but you must grow.

Size is part of relevance. Size matters.

So it's partly about growing your business economically, and partly about growing your people. Preparing them for the next step.

People need to evolve. Personal development is key to success.

Learning is a lifelong process. If you stop learning, you are a vegetable.