Count me in for Simplicity

  • September 12, 2011
  • Scott

There’s an argument that says the world is too complex for humans to understand.  Further, that by thinking we understand cause-and-effect, we’re doomed to act in ways that have unforeseen (usually negative) consequences.  It is a really interesting debate, and informative on the more than two sides represented.

Personally, I found myself rejecting this notion as useful.  Not that the notion of complexity isn’t useful – but letting it paralyze you is not useful.  When it comes to running your business, simplicity is more powerful than complexity.  A combination of relatively simple interactions has more power than a complex single interaction.  Simple interactions are more replicable, more scalable. I would focus more on enabling “emergence” than disabling decision-making by leaders.

Simplicity and abstraction go hand-in-hand.  The iPad has a significant amount of complexity baked in – from the hardware, to the software, to the production processes that lead to its creation, to the design processes that lead to its conception.  But to me, it is just a glossy glass enclosure that responds to my touch.

Does my touch cause the apps to do what they do?  Actually, it doesn’t matter whether touch is causal or not – it is, at minimum, so highly correlated between action and reaction that it feels like causation.

And that’s what we should be striving for in our businesses – that our actions would achieve the results we’re looking for – will feel like causation – though there may be a complex choreography and it may not be driven top-down.

There was a truly fantastic quote in the original HBR article:

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and
don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless
immensity of the sea.”

– Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Sometimes simple is best.



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