Complicated Things Versus Complicating Things


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Without a doubt, our personal and business worlds are complicated–and getting more so. We’re pressed from all sides with shifting priorities, new problems, too little time, too much information. We struggle to cope and manage. We seek solutions to address the complexity.

Usually, our approach is to further complicate things. We look for quick fixes, we provide patches, Band-Aids.

We seldom look to Simplify–it seems too complicated. Simplification is not easy. To simplify we have to really understand what we are trying to do. We have to understand what’s standing in the way of what we are trying to achieve. We have to analyze what we’ve put in place, what seemed good at the time, but no longer serves us. We have to let go and look at things differently. We have to understand the essence.

It’s tough work, it’s personally threatening. It may mean we need to change–our points of view, perhaps belief systems.

Complicating things is so much easier and less threatening. We don’t have to do those tough things necessary for Simplification. We only have to react, to patch, to move on. After all, tomorrow we can do the same thing all over again, and again the next day, then the next…..

It works, kind of…..

It works until it doesn’t…… Usually, we discover that too late. A new competitor, not saddled with the layers of baggage and complexity comes up with Simple. It does what your customers want to do—without all the overhead, without all the complexity, probably cheaper.

Complicating things is easy, but it’s wrong. It creates more problems, begs more complexity. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon.

Simplification is hard—but it’s what is right because it focuses on the single biggest problems our customers have: Complexity.

Perhaps the greatest Insights we can bring our customers is Simplification. Understanding what they do so well, engaging them in helping to simplify. Think of the value in that, think of the dollars, euros, rupees, pounds, yuan, yen that are no longer wasted.

Before you can Simplify for the customer, consider first Simplification for yourself and your organization.

Take a few difficult steps to Simplify:

1. Before you accept a new priority, consciously de-prioritize two other things. Agree on this with your manager.

2. Before you accept a new task, complete two that you have on your plate.

3. Before you add a new project, eliminate or complete at least one.

4. Before you add a new feature or function to your products and services, identify the two that you can remove.

5. Before you add another meeting to your calendar (or anyone else’s), ask why, ask what you hope to accomplish, be very clear of the value that each participant will get from the meeting. Until you can answer these, you aren’t ready to have a meeting, but you are ready to waste your and the other’s time.

6. When you are tempted to take the “easy way,” reconsider. Simple is not easy but it is the only way to make any sense of complexity.

Things are complicated enough, we don’t need to continue complicating things.

(This post was provoked by one from Seth Godin. It’s not often I disagree with Seth, perhaps I misunderstand him. But I think he has it confused here Simple and Easy are not the same. In fact they are very different.)

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


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