How to Simplify Like Google

by Lisa Bodell for futurethink

Last week, I flew to Sweden to give a talk at the Google for Education Study Tour. In addition to immersion in Google’s culture and a visit to a progressive middle school, we talked about ways that well-known organizations are building simplification into their workplaces—through either casual practices or conventional programs.


  • Google holds Bureaucracy Buster meetings.
  • Fidelity’s business units place “do not enter” tape in front of their cubicles to protect time for strategic and imaginative thinking.
  • UK-based Tesco grocery stores reduced SKUs by 30% and beat market expectations one year later.
  • GE reduced approval layers to just two: your boss and her boss.


  • GE, Altria, and P&G have named “Simplification” as one of their company’s strategic tenets.
  • Merck Canada’s simplification team has a structural process to attack complexities, one at a time.
  • Syngenta has hired a Chief Simplification Officer.

Whether you’re in education, technology, retail, or finance, your organization can benefit from less complexity. A foundational exercise that helps bring simplification out of the abstract and into employees’ daily life is the Simplification Code of Conduct. It centers around behaviors that we want to change. As in, what are the things we want more or? Which behaviors do we want less of?

The code of conduct below was created in response to an internal survey of behaviors. Which of these would you love to implement with your team? Which behavior would have the biggest impact on the business?

A Code of Conduct shouldn’t be viewed as a list of rigid rules, but rather a clarification of the behaviors that will simplify our work environment. And when we put those behaviors in place, it enables everyone to do more valuable work.

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