I am following up on the themes of the last days and, in particular, yesterday’s Thought
A small company is not a big company in small. In the growth from small to big, the trouble is in the middle
Every successful company’s growth contains seeds of failure. At some point, organizational complexity could outweigh the business benefits
I have just seen again this ubiquitous quote by Sir Richard Branson: ‘Complexity is your enemy. Any fool can make something complicated. It is hard to make something simple’.
Coming from Mr Branson, these quotes get a lot of laudatory ‘likes’. However
(1) He gets wrong the difference between complex and complicated. In fact he seems to imply that it is the same
(2) ‘Complexity is your enemy’. Complexity should NOT be your enemy. In fact we need to learn to manage and lead complexity.
(3) ‘It is hard to make something simple’: Actually it was Steve Jobs who said that.
This version of reduction ‘from complexity to simplicity’ as a way to ‘understand’ and get things manageable, drives me nuts. We are kidding ourselves if we think that things such as climate change, health epidemics, terrorism and fundamentalism, or inequality, can be ‘made simple’. Mr Branson says that ‘any fool can make something complicated’. I think that what we actually have are many fools who pretend that those issues are ‘simple’ or can be ‘simplified’. Maybe because they have a ready-made answer.
Actually my list of issues above, deliberately belong to what is called Wicked Problems. These are complex problems, with, amongst other things not a true/false solution but a good/bad. Also ‘The problem is not understood until after the formulation of a solution (…)Every solution to a wicked problem is a ‘one shot operation’, and others (see the good Wikipedia summary).
In organizations we don’t encounter wicked problems all the time, but complexity is not in short supply.
My message is don’t fight complexity with simplification; don’t make complexity your enemy. Instead, find out, learn, and equip yourself with the approach and tools to deal with it.