Are You a Complicator or a Simplifier?

I just read a post on a Harvard Business discussion forum with the subject line shown as, “Are you a Complicator or a Simplifier?”...hmmm.

Jerome, the guy who posed the question went on to suggest there were two types of people.

The COMPLICATORS who complicate things around us by their cluttered thinking and their fanciful tendencies. As he put it, “Contributing much to the entropy in the economic, academic, legal, political, and social environments”; and the SIMPLIFIERS, who “Try to deflate the hot air balloon of hubris and grandiosity in our systems, thereby rendering our labyrinthine world easy to navigate and live in (Sparing us from the tyranny of the fancy and toxicity of complexity).”

In other words, Complicators could be overly meticulous or downright arbitrary, while Simplifiers could fall into the “easy does it” type or simplistic category.

He then when on to ask, “Which one are you then?...

The truth is that I’ve worked extraordinarily hard to reduce the confusion and complexity of community building by working with others to provide a clear roadmap. It hasn’t been easy to develop a framework that can accommodate the diversity of communities while motivating change, but I’d like to think we’re getting there.

Unfortunately, it too often seems that when something is presented as being simple and straightforward, many are of the opinion that it can’t be of value.

Too often it seems people confuse simple and simplify, with simplistic.

In our increasingly complex world of more, better, faster, ‘simplicity’ is a key value. The pace of change isn’t likely to slow any time in the near future, so we’ll all need to work diligently if we want to keep things, especially change, from being complicated and overwhelming.
I think it begins with making simplicity a priority. It’s tempting to avoid taking the extra time to make things simple and direct especially when we’re moving fast. It does, of course, take much more time and energy to ensure we produce clear and concise plans, policies, directions, resources, and materials. But, to get simplicity, one has to place a high value on it.

One of the reasons we don’t end up with simplicity is that it requires knowing a subject matter extraordinarily well. If we don’t take the time to really understand by listening, researching, analyzing, experimenting, testing, applying, and refining, we likely will get simplistic instead of simple.

Getting to simple also requires a willingness to challenge and be willing to let go of what may already exist. Everything needs to be justified if its existence is to continue. That doesn’t negate the potential for retaining something traditional, just that it must be a conscious decision if simplicity is truly a priority.

One way to make things simple is to increase the use of stories or analogies and decrease the initial amount of detail. Stories and analogies somehow manage to build a bridge between facts and theories and show how theory can be put into action. Stories open up others to seeing how things could be different, and clarify what might otherwise have been difficult to convey.

Getting to simple may also mean being prepared to start over again. If something is too complex, it may be necessary to break things down into smaller components or, if that fails, go back to square one.

How will you know when you do get it right?

Typically, simplicity is achieved when everyone can easily understand and use the knowledge, product or resource regardless of their experience, literacy, or learning style.

In other words, if it can be described simply, it can be used simply. After all, when push comes to shove, it will be simplicity that makes the complex possible.

Posted on 08-18-13


Your comments are excellent and address the subject with the seriousness it deserves. As you said, “After all, when push comes to shove,it will be simplicity that makes (execution of) the complex possible”.

•Posted by George Collier  on  08/18/13  at  12:35 PM


I love it when you make so much sense!

•Posted by Letisha's McFall  on  08/20/13  at  08:40 AM

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