Tuesday, February 27, 2007

An Argument for Less Simplicity

Leah Eskin wrote a fun little article in her Home on the Range column for the Chicago Tribune magazine section a few weeks back, titled, Get Over the Easy: Effortless Eggs Aren't Worth the Trouble:

"Simplistic propaganda lurks on the magazine cover, best-seller table and annoying pop-up promotion: Declutter, deacquistion, desist. Mottoes that are supposed to relieve the overworked and overwhelmed. But don't.

"You realize you like complicated. Maybe not bacon-on-a-swing complicated. Not spear-it-and-cute-it-yourself complicated. But at the very least the carefully selected and beautifully composed cheese-plate complicated."

On she writes, quite cleverly, in fact, about what seems to be a justification for a quasi-complicated brunch. And as I read, I was struck by the notion that many people, myself included, actually like the complicated! After all, there is a beauty in complexity that simplicity simply cannot hold a candle to, fragranted paraffin, notwithstanding. Like when a basketball team executes a perfect pick and roll, or when a car's anti-lock brakes do their thing, or, in keeping with Ms. Eskin's epicurean emphasis, when all the parts of a Thanksgiving Day dinner are ready to eat at exactly the same time. This is not simplicity. But it is fantastic!

We often complain how office policies and procedures tend to be more complicated than they need be. And many are. But sometimes, there's nothing like a crisp 7-step process to take something through from start to finish. It begs the question:

What might we be trying to make too simple?
In an effort to clear things off our plates (that one was for you, Leah!) what important details might we have overlooked? In an effort to rush through a meeting , what important questions might we never have let get asked? In a effort to hurry home and live a balanced life, who might we have nearly run off the road as we changed lanes without looking back there?

It's complicated when you have to square the corners, polish the chrome, dot the i's and cross the t's. Rarely is it simple.

But a job well done? Now that's simply outstanding!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe Einstein said:

Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.

The movement of a handcrafted pocketwatch has a beauty that that comes from being as simple as possible--even though it is obviously complex. If a business process has to be complex, it can still be like the pocket watch. However many processes look like a pocketwatch that is 5 feet tall and has a bunch of extra gears and levers sticking out that must be manipulated in the correct manner to control other needless mechanics just to keep the parts from getting in the way of each other. That is the type of complexity that should be avoided.

Mark Shead

Tuesday, February 27, 2007 7:15:00 PM CST  
Anonymous Barry Zweibel said...

That Einstein - he sure knew what he was talking about!

That Shead - same!

Thanks for your comment, Mark.

Thursday, March 1, 2007 9:38:00 AM CST  

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