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Are You Guilty of Unintentionally Overcomplicating? The Case of the Soviet Pencil

business lifestyle the retreat the workroom tricia scott Jun 21, 2020

By Tricia Scott

Today I’m going to revisit with you one of my favourite stories. It came up this week in conversation and got me to thinking about the ‘current situation’ and all that’s going on in the world of business. I’m seeing a lot of panic posts around the major social channels and some of it, I’m sad to say, is just plain unashamed scare-mongering. Pivot to this, do this, don’t ever do this (clickbait anyone?) and lots of make-a-change-or-suffer-the-consequencesoverload.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a bit of good advice, I’m also all for businesses pivoting and re-thinking strategy, but the big problem I see here is that we are being herded, sheep-like into over-complication. I wanted to talk to you for a few minutes about whether we are making things harder on ourselves than they need to be and invite you to ask yourself this question; Are we guilty of unintentionally overcomplicating?


Let’s look at the story of the Soviet Space Pencil.

In the 1960s, NASA was going all-in on the exploration of space. The space race was on. However, what they discovered was that while the astronauts were off doing their thing in space, they couldn’t use a pen to record their work or findings.. pens don’t work in zero gravity.


So, allegedly, in an attempt to fix the issue, they employed a man called Paul C Fisher to design a pen that would do the job. Millions of dollars were spent, countless trials were undertaken, and eventually, the Fisher Space Pen was brought into existence. At last! A tool that could be used to record arguably the most important findings of our time.


But, the Soviets were also in the running to discover space. It was all about who was getting there first. So what did they do in response to this seemingly magnificent and life-altering breakthrough? They didn’t waste time developing fancy pens. They didn’t spend millions on research either they just used…

A pencil.

You’ve got to laugh; I mean how much truth is in this urban legend who knows? (The Fisher Space Pen is an actual thing) the point is sometimes it’s difficult to see the wood for the trees.

Where are you racing, panicking, spending time researching, developing, worrying and digging into something which could be easily solved with the proverbial pencil? Can you take a step back from the problem and see it more simply? You might just be surprised.

We’re all guilty of it, me most definitely included, but the first time I read this little story, it really made me think. Simplicity is critical in business and life. Be careful not to discount an idea because it seems too simple to be viable, consider the advantages of moving in short, straight lines as opposed to running around in circles leaving big fat red squiggly lines everywhere.

Our brains make us think that the NASA approach is best because we live in a society where complexity and speed are seen as innovative, the struggle is seen to be indicative of success and frustration leads to extraordinary breakthroughs.

I call serious bullshit.

Now I’m not saying pivoting your business through Covid-19 is super easy breezy walking in the park, (if only, right?) Still, I do urge you to consider that simplicity could be key. If you need more time, take it. If you need space to think, take it. Don’t allow others’ panic laden voices to drown out your intuition and confuse you as to what you know your business needs.

Yes, you may need to implement change, but you can do it in a way that works for you without the disaster scenarios and working like a MoFo all through the night. Your mental health matters, you matter.

Move over to where the ease (or easier) is, get clear, and from that place, you can flourish and grow. A little bit of space and peace allows for all of that.

In a world of fancy-ass pens be the Soviet pencil.


Tricia Scott is the Founder and Editor of The Female CEO - Create Evolve Overcome, a platform and digital magazine holding the space to showcase female entrepreneurs from all over the world. She works and collaborates with various organisations to bring the most inspirational journeys, stories and training to help entrepreneurs on their own personal success mission. The Female CEO is growing, expanding and gaining global recognition daily and Tricia is able to bring her own level of expertise as a coach, mentor and multi-company director to her very exclusive table along with her team of brilliant Guest Editors and Bloggers. You'll usually find her with her MacBook in one hand and a coffee or a glass of something fizzy in the other and she always have sunglasses in her hair. Reach out anytime! 



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