“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” -Confucius
Start with nothing…
A blank page.
A white canvas.
An empty bowl.
Now add something…
A word. A sentence. A paragraph.
A line. A splash of color. A shadow.
An ingredient. A spice. Heat.
The addition has two immediate effects:
First, the page, canvas or bowl becomes more complex because it now contains more pieces, parts, and components.
Second, it becomes better because it can now accomplish things previously out of reach.
The blank page now communicates an idea.
The white canvas now depicts an image.
The empty bowl now provides flavor and nutrition.
Continue adding to each receptacle and we see the very nature of our creation expand.
Words and sentences give rise to a point, a plot, a lesson, a laugh.
Lines and colors produce new sensations of depth, movement, beauty, emotion.
Ingredients blend, emulsify, cook, and ferment to release calories and flavors that were previously locked away and unavailable to us.
These additions and combinations provide new value, a greater experience far more than the sum of the parts.
But what happens when we over-engineer and add too much to our creation?
At what point do we cross the threshold from simplicity to complexity…and what can we do about?
SAY HELLO TO RUBE
A RUBE GOLDBERG machine is a contraption, invention, or device that is deliberately over-engineered to perform a simple task in a complicated fashion.
It involves a number of indirect, convoluted chain reactions that can only be described as both ingenious and absurd.
The machine itself is named after Cartoonist and Inventor Rube Goldberg who once described his inventions as a “symbol of man’s capacity for exerting maximum effort to accomplish minimal results.”
Over the years, the expression Rube Goldberg has expanded to mean any confusing or complicated system that deliberately slows progress and which serves as a barrier to progress and transparency.
Examples include the IRS Tax Code, healthcare, banking, financial services, the legal system as well as customer service for large corporations to name just a few.
They have consciously chosen the vice of complexity over the virtue of simplicity and we are all paying dearly for it.
Your goal is to do just the opposite…to deliberately remove complexity and confusion from your life, from your relationships and from your business so that you can accomplish maximum results with minimal effort.
Simplicity is a beautiful word that could define a person, place or thing.
By its mention alone, simplicity creates a sense of relief and freedom in this increasingly complex world and its reason enough as to why we need to actively pursue it, use it as a benchmark measurement and include it as part of every decision we make.
Complexity is a gatekeeper, a type of intellectual pollution that smothers clear thought and which has direct negative benefits on productivity, customer delight, corporate profitability, and your own peace of mind.
Complexity is also the curse of the digital age and whether in product design, decision-making, education or any daily function for that matter it is to be avoided at all costs.
Simplicity on the other hand is best defined as the property, condition, or quality of being simple or un-combined. It often denotes beauty, elegance, purity and clarity.
Simplicity is a virtue worth striving for, but so often it seems all too hard – if indeed we have time to think about it at all.
And that’s where the problem starts. For simplicity doesn’t just happen on its own. Without conscious, deliberate and sustained effort focused on simplicity, the opposite – increased complexity – is almost certain to manifest itself.
Throughout history, the tools and technology we use have always shaped our bodies, our arts, our architecture, and us.
Now, the digital tools we use are changing and in many ways controlling us.
Our modern world generates complexity at warp speed. Where once we communicated with the outside world by nothing more than fixed phone lines or mail…we now have to deal with the phone, mobile phone, fax, e-mail, text, voice-mail, webcasts, Skype, face time, social media – the list goes on.
Where once we had a simple filing cabinet…we now have a desktop, laptop, tablet, cloud, multiples of apps and passwords…all designed to coordinate our complexity.
And these examples only relate to technology – consider the complexity imposed on us by the endless number of choices available to us at every turn.
Simple acts such as picking out a paint color for your living room can quickly become a labyrinth of complexity…a black hole that consumes your time and attention.
The unintended of consequences of complexity lead to loss of focus, productivity and time and a negative gain of uncertainly, second guessing and paranoia.
In a world characterized by constant change, volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, there is only one rule: Simplicity Beats Complexity.
The pursuit of simplicity is another great example as to why…
Gary Ryan Blair