Simplicity Lifts the Fog of Complexity

Simplicity lifts the fog of complexity.

That’s not to say simplicity is easy because getting to simplicity rarely comes without a lot of teeth grinding, heated discussions, and a team willing to work really really hard. 

I’m working now with that kind of amazing team from Yukon, NWT and Nunavut to develop training and resources for existing and emerging community recreation leaders.

The truth is that we have worked extraordinarily hard not only to figure out how to deliver training across a land mass that represents 39% of Canada yet makes up a tiny .42% of the total population. Within these three territories, our stakeholders live in often remote and isolated communities with significant bandwidth challenges.

Much of our work has focused on reducing the confusion and complexity of community building by providing a clear map. It hasn’t been easy to develop a framework that can accommodate the diversity of communities while motivating citizen engagement and transformative change, but we do believe we’re getting there.

Unfortunately, it sometimes seems that when something is presented as being simple and straightforward, some may be of the opinion that it can’t be of value.

Too often it seems people confuse simple, with simplistic.

In our increasingly complex world of more, better, and faster, ‘simplicity’ needs to be a key value. Since it is clear the pace of change is likely to speed up rather than slow down in the near future, we will all need to work diligently if we want to keep things, especially innovation and change, from being so complicated and overwhelming that we give in to a natural inclination to reject it.

I think it begins with making simplicity a priority. Of course it is tempting to avoid taking the extra time to make things simple and direct especially when we are moving fast. It does, of course, take much more time and energy to ensure we produce clear and concise plans, put appropriate technology into place, take time to capture emerging policies and procedures, develop meaningful and relevant curriculum and resources, and communicate what needs to be communicated to the diverse team. However, getting to simplicity means it has to be valued. 

One of the reasons we sometimes don’t end up with simplicity is that it requires knowing a subject extraordinarily well through a variety of lenses. It also requires taking the time to really understand by listening, researching, analyzing, experimenting, testing, applying, and refining. When that happens we do ultimately get to simplistic and that’s different from simple.

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

Ensuring simplicity is also enhanced by learning that is the result of practice and application, extensive curation, and the use of stories and visuals such as one page models, graphics, and charts.

While some may view it as being a waste of time, getting to simple may also mean being prepared to start over again. We’ve done that more than once. However we’ve learned that 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?

It seems simplicity is achieved when everyone can easily understand and use the knowledge, plan, or resource regardless of their experience, cultural background, literacy, or learning style.

In other words, if it can be described simply, it can be used simply. Maybe that means when push comes to shove, simplicity is ultimately what makes the complex possible.

Posted on 09-25-17

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