Complexity vs. Simplicity a doomed battle… or not?

By: Mickey Granot

Life is complex, anyway we observe our lives whether personal, social or business it is complex. What makes them complex is the fact that whatever we set our minds to do (or at least almost everything) has so many dependencies, so many elements that have an effect on the end result. Some of these elements seem to be in our control and some other out of our control. It almost feels like decisions are similar to a dice game.


With the notion of complexity of life comes the notion of complexity of solutions. We developed a belief that a complex situation must be resolved with an appropriate complex solution. It seems unreasonable otherwise, isn’t it?


Let me try and offer a different point of view. We may not like this fact, but we (human beings) are naturally lazy. I believe it comes from the fact that the brain is naturally lazy. The brain is the largest consumer of energy in our body, as such it is programmed to minimize consumption of energy. The activity that requires the most energy is thinking, thus our brain has developed to be a highly sophisticated search engine. Instead of thinking we search. When our brain finds anything that seems to fit the situation, it is captured as the answer. Imagine walking into a room and seeing a chair, not similar to any one you have ever seen before. How do you know it is a chair? Your brain searches your library, and finds similar objects called chairs – done!


Being lazy is translated to searching for easy solutions. interestingly easy solutions are complex ones. Let’s look at a great example of that – your office desk. For most of us it is a mess. We know how good it is to have it organized and clean, and from time to time we make the effort to do so, and five minutes later it is back being a mess. Why? Mess is complex, but easy. Order is simple, but difficult.


The best, obvious solutions for complex situations are simple, the difficulty is that it makes the solutions difficult. So, even when the obvious solution is known (keep your desk clean and in order) we prefer to adopt the more complex, yet easier solution.


The problem is that the easier solution does not solve the problem, and more than that is responsible for the existence of so many other problems. To overcome this dichotomy, we choose the best explanation – we benchmark. We compare to others that we believe are a type of a role model. If they do the same, it must be right, isn’t it? Well, no… they are as lazy as we are.


Complexity means that many elements participate in understanding the reality and the effect of our choices on it, this is true. The good news is that the more complex the system is, the more entities take part in the reality and the more they are interconnected the less degrees of freedom exist. The less degrees of freedom exist the simpler the solution is. Sadly, simpler means more difficult. This may explain why when facing simple solutions vs. complex ones, we tend to choose the complex ones, where the result of the choice remains uncertain.


A great contributor to that choice is also fear. We are afraid of failure, and more than that we are afraid of failure that can be related to us. Complex solutions allow us to divert the blame.


What motivates you? The fear of failure or the desire of success? If it is the latter, seek the simplicity that is the heart of any complex situation, choose the obvious, yet difficult and you’ll stand a chance to realize breakthroughs.


Doing what everyone else is doing can, at best, realize what they realize.

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