You’ve heard it before. We humans tend to make simple things complicated.
Why do you think that is?
Well, there is something called the complexity bias. It is a belief that the more complex a solution, the better it is, based on the assumption that if it is too simple, it may be interpreted as cheap or not as smart.
We see this play out in all areas of life. For example, situations where professionals speak in their own jargon. I have actually witnessed this and stood there thinking, ‘can’t you speak in a much simple way so that we can understand you?’
Never assume anything
There is this assumption that if we use big technical words, we will look smarter.
If you can’t connect with an individual that doesn’t speak your jargon, then how do you think you are going to succeed in business?
This also plays out in corporate culture, where a team is given a very simple task or project to work on. From there, they make it all so complicated to the point where everyone gets overwhelmed and then even confused with how they are going to get to the finish line.
In reality, things are really so much more straightforward than that and far less stressful.
Get to the point
Another example of the complexity bias in action is one that even I am personally guilty of.
Instead of getting straight to the point and asking a question in a simple way, we feel that we have to justify, give reason to, or explain the why in detail before we get to the question. Behind this behaviour, it could be as simple as feeling uncomfortable about asking the question in the first place.
But have you ever stopped to think if this is your complexity bias flexing its muscle?
Even when you ask someone to do something for you, do you ever stop to think, ‘what is the simplest way I can ask this question to get to the point?’
The pendulum of the mind
In Europe, some organisations still consult the runes or the pendulum for making business decisions. Behind this tradition, there is valuable insight for any individual or company anywhere in the world.
In this case, the secret to their success is to ask very precise, specific and unambiguous questions that can’t be interpreted, elucidated or perceived as anything else.
In other words, you don’t want to be able to have variance in your questioning. Otherwise, you will receive a vague answer that has more than one meaning.
Simplicity is complexity resolved
Renowned statistician E.F. Schumacher once said, ‘Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex … It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.’
We don’t have to look too far to find the evidence to support Schumacher’s statement. Just take a look around.
How complex is our world? Well, what we have made of it.
How often do you see individuals, leaders, corporations and businesses finding themselves in the swirls of complicated situations? In these situations, how often do they feel frustrated and annoyed that they are not accomplishing anything?
Ultimately, how often do they find themselves in the quest of how to get it all to a simple approach, method or framework?
Life can only be understood backwards
In this context, why not do the reverse?
The next time we find ourselves in a pickle and we have two competing propositions, conjectures or axioms, instead of going for the most complex solution, why not ask ourselves, ‘what is the simplest way that I can tackle this?’
Now, the following step is the most crucial step of all.
After you have asked the question, pause, be still and allow the answers to come through. Write them down.
We always get our own answers to our questions. However, we often don’t receive them because we are going so fast trying to discover a simple solution with a chaotic mind.
It’s in the slowing down that we speed up
In order to succeed, we must practice. Continuously.
To put this insight into practice means taking a step back, adopting a helicopter view and looking at the situation as a whole.
Once we break away from our old routines, ways of working and habitual patterns, we are able to peel back the self-imposed layers of complexity.
What we will find at the core of this swirl of complexity is the simplest seed of all.
The measure of intelligence is the ability to change
Confucius said, ‘life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.’
If we could simplify our thoughts, our feelings, our mindset and our ways of working, imagine how much time and energy we would get back.
We all have the capacity, the intelligence and the capability to eradicate all the unnecessary complexities and get back to the simple things in life.
After all, complexity and simplicity are just states of mind.
It’s up to you to choose which one to live by.