If you’re a fan of complexity, you (like me) were probably disappointed by the Boston Globe’s recent report on why most humans believe easy = true.
If all we ever embrace are the basics, how will we develop the skills necessary to solve more complex problems?
If your business is faltering or your economy is collapsing, wouldn’t you want the people solving those problems to be able to process more than just the basics?
But that person can’t do all the work herself. At some point, she needs the help of people who can only process the basics. And if she can break complex problems down to the basics, that’s a skill all itself.
So maybe the real issue here isn’t that we need to choose between simple or complex.
Maybe we just need to change the order in which we process information.
“Less Talk, More Rock.”
That’s the advice of the Superbrothers, who used their platform in Boing Boing to rally against the problem of overcomplication.
Go right from the inspiration — the vision — to actually making [whatever your idea is]. Don’t think it through. Don’t talk about it. Don’t plan it. Dive in and start making it happen.
If you do that — if you can start rocking — you’ll get some momentum, and when you have some momentum then the project has a chance… Sure, you’ll still run up against problems to solve and decisions to make, but you’ll approach these in the moment and solve them in the moment. You’ll solve them so you can keep moving.
The take-away here is: rock before talking.
In other words: do something. Then investigate its impact.
This approach doesn’t remove the element of complexity; it just shifts it to the end of the line, when the information you’re processing is based on experience instead of presumption.
Maybe the Superbrothers are on to something.
The Ad Contrarian (AKA Bob Hoffman) is a devotee of simplicity. But he also fears that we’re now living in the age of the complicator, and that makes the life of an advertiser hell.
As he tells it:
Next to talent, the most important quality an ad person can have is the ability to simplify.
There are a million things to say about any product or brand. A simplifier understands the difference between what is essential and what is peripheral.
To a complicator, on the other hand, everything has equal weight. He is unable to do the most essential of all strategic tasks — eliminate the unnecessary.
Like the Superbrothers, Hoffman has a point.
As an organizer, I can always appreciate the need to simplify.
As a communicator, I know that simplicity is the way to connect quickly with lots of people.
And as a marketer, I know that the path between your eyes and your wallet doesn’t include a detour into your brain.
But what happens when opposing sides each cling to their own simplicities?
If Easy = True, Does That Mean Complicated = False?
When President Obama gave his annual State of the Union speech back in January, the Harvard Business Review’s Roger Martin analyzed Obama’s language and found something compelling.
I’ve seen this pattern of “integrative thinking” employed by a number of highly successful business leaders — so much so that I set out to study it. What I’ve found is that these leaders, rather than defining their job as choosing from between opposing ideas, are inclined to reject the choice and instead seek a new and better model.
So, instead of being forced to choose between two seemingly exclusive options, Obama (and the other leaders profiled in Martin’s book The Opposable Mind) prefer to seek a third solution that satisfies elements of each argument while still accomplishing his end goal.
This seems wise.
But considering the easy = true theory, it also seems politically dangerous.
Isn’t it easier (and faster) to polarize an audience, accomplish what you can with the friends you have, and view your opponent as The Other? Doesn’t that simultaneously define your boundaries, limit your expectations and provide you with an excuse if you fail?
Sure. But it’s only satisfying if your goals are easy.
Before You Can Grab the Brass Ring, You Have to Board the Carousel
Getting rich personally isn’t the same thing as fixing the economy.
Getting laid isn’t the same thing as raising a child.
Being happy isn’t the same as staying happy.
They’re the basics.
Getting rich is easy. Getting laid is easier. And being happy is just flipping a switch.
Fixing a complex system is a lot harder, and it requires a person to bridge the gap between the easy and the complicated.
If you have goals, you also need a system to achieve them. Sometimes, that system is one step: “Go.” Other times, that system is a labyrinth of weighted choices and collaborative responsibilities.
Either way, your ultimate goal (AKA “the hard part”) is a matter of solving the easy problems in front of you, step by step.
And the more clearly you see how the basics connect, the more you’ll be able to do with them.
Less talk, more rock? Absolutely.
Just be aware of what all those rocks are building.
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