OMP#43: The Curious Tale of Mart Laar

As you know at Natural Training we are pretty big on clear messaging and clarity when speaking and presenting.  To highlight what great clarity means in business I couldn’t wait to share this little story about Mart Laar which I hope you enjoy…

At the tender age of 32 Mart Laar became Prime Minister of Estonia. This was an important time in Estonia’s development.

Recently cast aside from the grip of the Soviets, Estonia in 1992 was wide eyed and ready to learn about how to take part in the global economy.

And there was no more eager student than Mart Laar.  The pressing question on Laar’s mind was“How do I run my country’s economy?”

So Laar did what many of us do when we don’t know the answer to something: he went and bought a few books. The book that influenced Laar the most was Free to Choose, by Milton Friedman. If you are familiar with economics, then you’ll know Friedman had some particularly radical views about world economics.

It  was the straightforward, common-sense manner of Friedman’s writing that appealed to Laar:

“I was very influenced because most of the ideas were simple, clear and they looked to work”.

So Laar applied the principles, becoming the first country in the world to implement Friedman economics as intended, including:

– Flat Tax – one tax rate for everyone
– Abolishment of tariffs to encourage international trade
– Privatisation of 90% of the economy

And it had some impact: Estonia over the next decade became known as the Tiger of the Baltics.
Friedman’s book spoke to Mart Laar because it was clear. It made sense.

And it ended up influencing the direction of an entire nation.

In the business world our human nature seems inclined to add complexity. More words, more products, more job titles, more processes.

We see it frequently when training our clients – if there is a pause, humans add noise. If there is a presentation, humans add slides. If there is a simple idea, humans make it sound more complex.

There is a striking message here: time spent reducing complexity appears to be time very well spent indeed.

For example your time spent in an upcoming pitch would be better spent reducing words and slides than increasing them. An active, concerted effort to cut down on detail would probably result in more wins, because audiences don’t need to digest as much.

And key messages are more memorable because they stand out.

Clarity isn’t the only ingredient in the art of influence. However it remains a driving force behind everything from influencing your customer to determining the success of a country.

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