Enlightened Conflict

the myth of simplification

July 19th, 2017

simple i like

 

“The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple.” – Oscar Wilde

 

 

“What a simple black and white world you must live in.” – unknown

 

 

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Communication.

 

Effective communication has been, and always will be, complex and complicated … and a good thing for society. Effective communication inevitably feeds into the minds and enlightenment of the listeners. If you dumb down communication inevitably you dumb down the listeners.

 

Old white men hollowed out communication. I imagine as they hollowed out everything else they found it inherently more productive to gain their objectives by hollowing out communication. Everything became soundbites, powerpoint bullet points and ‘elevator speeches.’ Effectively communicating complexity took on less importance than puncturing the mind with a quick sharp stab <and then walking away>. Old white men mastered the art of emptying communication to a point where businesses end up walking on the slippery surface of irrelevance <cloaked in a beautiful robe called “what is important for you to know.”>

 

Bruce McTague

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Well.

 

I may as well fulfill my contrarian obligations immediately – nothing is it is complicated complex not simple Life worldsimple.

 

Nothing.

 

Look.

 

I may be wrong but I think the world would be a shitload ‘righter’ if we just assumed nothing was simple and started acting that way.

The whole idea of simple and simplicity has … well … fucked us up royally. It has almost become an obsession toward which everyone is consumed by until we are either frozen into inaction <this isn’t simple enough> or we hold our “simplicity prize” up high proudly … only to find in our holy quest we discarded some essential items which would have actually helped this ‘simple idea’ live.

 

We all want to simplify our lives <or at least we talk about it a lot>, simplicity in thinking, simplicity in ideas and simplicity in work … and yet, as a generalization, we all seem to seek every way possible to complicate our lives.

 

We see simplicity as a way to solve problems and, whew, we are a certainly a ‘people’ of problem solvers <but also problem creators as a corollary>.

And, yet, “it seems simple …” may be the biggest problem of all and may be one of the most misused and misguided statements and thoughts in today’s world.

 

 

A good friend of mine, an experienced communications professional, always says “if you are explaining you are losing” as an argument for simplicity. The challenge is that it … well … isn’t an argument for simplicity. It is actually an argument for clearly articulating what you want, and need, to articulate.

In fact … as I will point out later in this rant piece … being too simple actually creates more confusion, therefore, simplicity could actually be creating the explaining.

oh my god cover mouth silence do not speak

 

 

<oh my>

 

 

And that is where the myth of simplification dies. It dies in truth and reality.

 

Simplicity reality, more often than not, consists of two opposing things – security/reliability, which anchors the sense of safety thereby justifying the common sense aspect of simplicity, & passion/risk/newness, which anchors the sense of movement thereby justifying the smartness aspect of simplicity.

Simplicity reality, more often than not, is an amalgamation of multiple fragments crating a mosaic which is pleasing to the eye <and relatively easy to grasp>.

 

Simplicity reality, more often than not, consists of some opposing thoughts in that, typically, if you have one… you can’t have the other.

 

Contrary to simplicity narratives the complexity actually brings in the pragmatism of a simplistic reality <and I would argue effectiveness.>.

 

All this means is that simplicity is rarely simple and trying to capture it in a meaningful single word or image is … well … not only silly but sells the depth & breadth of a decision or situation or idea or thought … or reality itself … short.

 

Reality is complex.

Life is complex.

Most ideas and thoughts are complex.

 

And there is no simple solution to complexity.

 

Simple is hard.

 

It is hard because sometimes, okay, most times simplicity is arrived at by distilling complex solutions/ideas down to its most efficient form.

 

business simplicity complex woekI would note that from my own business experience I would say that many times simplicity ideas can only be found from checking out all of the different solutions. And after sifting through everything simplicity is more often found in a “doh” moment <not an “ah ha!” moment> in that you may be surprised by the fact simplicity is just the thing that makes the most sense at the end of the day.

 

And why is simple THAT hard?

 

Well.

 

Al Einstein said, “Make things as simple as can be—but not simpler.”

 

Geez.

 

So simple isn’t the least.

It may actually be somewhere above the least and significantly below the most <complex>.

 

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t seek simplicity. But what it does mean is that simple or simplicity shouldn’t be defined by rules or milestones or trite “say it in 10 seconds or less” dictates or, well, any boundaries.

 

Simplicity defines itself it is not defined. Simplicity is reflective of the time, place, people, situation and solution needed.

 

Ponder that my friends.

 

What may make simplicity even more complex is, oddly enough, that part which should make it the simplest.

 

Simplicity, more often than not, is the nitty gritty stuff and not the more glamorous big vision or “big idea” stuff. It is about marrying principle and pragmatism and gradual improvement – piece by piece and part by part.

 

To me, simple and simplicity tends to be found in shit that most people would think has nothing to do with simple:

 

  • Coalesce fragments

 possibilities-plans-ideas-infinity-life-business-choices

“The whole is simpler than the sum of its parts.

Willard Gibbs

 

I think people would be much better off f they understood that while simple may be represented in ‘one thing’ it is actually representative of many things.

The best of the best ‘simplicity finders’ are the ones who are the best at coalescing fragments. Gathering up disparate pieces of information and figuring out how to make them whole in a way that

 

 

  • Box in complexity

 

Let me begin by paraphrasing a quote about how Sylvia Plath wrote…

 

“Whether Plath wrote about nature, or about the social restrictions on individuals, she stripped away the polite veneer. She let her writing express elemental forces and primeval fears. In doing so, she laid bare the contradictions that tore apart appearance and hinted at some of the tensions hovering just beneath the surface of the American way of life.”

 

Margaret Rees

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I used the quote because far too many people think simplicity is about stripping away things to showcase the core instead maybe they should be thinking about stripping away the veneer so that the truth can be laid bare.

Let me explain <you will not agree with this if you do not agree that simplicity is a ‘whole made up of fragments’>.

 

Simplicity, to me, is about using the complex parts to box in the whole.

 

making your point bracket triangulate business combine experienceYou either:

 

 

  • Bracket what you want to offer <simplicity resides within two opposing thoughts>.

 

 

  • Triangulate what you want to offer <simplicity resides in the middle>.

 

 

  • Box in what you want to offer <simplicity gets squeezed into middle>.

 

Now.

Some people may use what I just shared and say “simplicity is the distillation” and I would push back by suggesting “simplicity is reflective of all the parts as it shows the whole.”

Am I parsing words?

Maybe.

 

But when someone says ‘show a picture’ or ‘say it in 5 seconds or you lose them’ and be done with it … I just don’t think it is that simple. Simple stimuli are just as likely to confuse. Provide ambiguity. Generate a feeling of ‘lesser than’ <”I am missing something of value or I missed the opportunity to showcase some value”>.

 

— note: there is a lot of research supporting this thought —

 

Look.

 

Our minds are like real estate.

 

Space is limited and we can’t let every thought, idea, product, person or whatever have a place to stay.

 

That means where the rubber hits the road with regard to being simple and simplicity is that it must create some connection with whomever is touching that simplicity

 

I will end with Chopin. Chopin is one of my favorite classical composers. I seriously doubt anyone who has ever looked at any of his sheet music would suggest his music was not complex. And, yet, close your eyes and listen … it contains a simplicity that connects.

 

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“Simplicity is the final achievement.

After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art.”

 

Frédéric Chopin

 

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All I know is that we have totally fucked up the idea of simplicity to a point where simple, or simplicity, is more a myth than reality. This myth has hollowed us out – hollowed our thinking, our communication and our culture.

 

beauty in the breakdown 2

Most of the worthwhile things in Life are not hollow … they have depth & breadth … they are … well … complex.

 

Reality is complex.

 

Life is complex.

 

Most ideas and thoughts are complex.

 

And there is no simple solution to complexity but I would suggest that the beauty can be found in the breakdown of the complex to its simplest form.

the unexpected move

June 27th, 2017

bad idea beauty life business

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“The unexpected, always the unexpected.


If they expect you to move right, move left.


The first law of survival in this jungle that you’ll inhabit.
The unexpected move. “

 

—-

The Avengers

 

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“She was already learning that if you ignore the rules people will, half the time, quietly rewrite them so that they don’t apply to you.”

 

Terry Pratchett

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Well.

 

Far too often in business we talk about making an “unexpected move” to gain an advantage as “zig when they zag.”

 

So … lets’ take a minute and talking about the whole “zigging when they zag” bullshit.

 

Oh.

Yeah.

 

On a football field zigging when they zag can be effective … but in business it is bullshit.

 

Look.

 

I am all for running with a temporary advantage when given the opportunity <and, yes, about 97.385% of advantages are temporary — I made up the 97.385% number>.

But that is not ‘zigging’.

 

I am all for hunkering down on a specific distinctness when it appears the rest of the category is bumbling around in an array of meaningless claims.

But that is not zigging.

 

I am all for leaping through a window of opportunity when the window cracks open.

But that is not zigging.

 

Suffice it to say … zigging, in general, is a stupid strategy.

 

Let me explain why.

 

Most industries once they have a fair number of competitors is more like a 7 zig zag highway unexpected businesslane superhighway where everyone is driving in the same direction within the same guard rails.

 

Not everyone will like thinking that but the truth is that most businesses have smart people who see the same information and do all the necessary research with people who are likely, and not likely, to buy whatever it is they are selling and therefore strategies are in the same realm and everyone is pretty much competing in the same arena.

 

This means a couple of things.

 

Everyone is speeding toward the same destination.

If something is obvious to you, it is most likely obvious to them.

 

What all of this means is you have to move but most moves have to be done artfully.

 

So maybe despite the fact I balk at the whole ‘zig when they zig’ and ‘unexpected’ anything in business gives me heartburn it is possible I could discuss the art of the unexpected move.

 

I call it “art” because unpredictability as normal behavior is bad. No one likes someone who is unpredictable 100% of the time and organizations <alignment, operations and ‘day to day doing’> tend to respond poorly to unpredictability.

 

unexpected changeIn my highway metaphor unpredictability most likely means either <a> a crash or <b> slowing down and you get passed or <c> you are now on a completely different road than all the other competitors speeding toward sales, & customers.

 

As for predictable?

Yikes. Boring. Lack of creativity. Bad <in a different way> … let’s just call predictable “lack of any art.”

 

In my highway metaphor this most likely means you are cruising in one of the right lanes, the slower lanes, and people are passing you all the frickin’ time.

 

This suggests making a move in your industry take more art and artfulness to navigate the path you desire or take advantage of the opportunity that may open.

 

This also suggests, in the business world, you sit up and pay attention just with a little more focus when someone pulls out the “maybe we should zig when they zag” tritism. You do so mostly because anyone who says that who is not on a football field most likely has their head up their ass <but want to say something catchy in a meeting to be noticed>.

 

I say that, again, because most time in a business industry companies are going in a direction for a reason … that is where the sales are. So ‘zigging’ when everyone else ‘zags’ more than likely means they are heading toward sales and you are not <but you can always say you zigged when they zagged>.

 

Ok.

 

Now.

 

If you want to tie ‘unexpected move’ to survival … well … that is a different story.

 

Survival does have a nasty habit of forcing some unexpected maneuvering. Ok. Maybe out of desperation the predictable in us decides that maybe being ‘unexpected’ may actually be called for.

 

I would suggest that if you find yourself in desperate times rarely is anything artful in that moment.

But I would suggest that in a desperate survival mode I can offer tow lists you should write up on some big board in some big conference room and make sure you discuss.

 

There are basically 4 basic responses to a threat <or opportunity I imagine>:

 

 

  • Fight

 

  • Flee

 

  • Deceive

 

  • Submit

 

 

Any move you choose to make will be derived from one of these four spaces.

Choose wisely.how we survive makes who we are

 

Once you have chosen <wisely> effectiveness in a survival fight basically comes down to 4 things <in the order of importance>:

 

 

  • aggression and willingness to hurt your competition

 

  • willingness to get hurt yourself

 

  • skill and knowledge

 

  • strength and power

 

 

Some may haggle with my order but the top two will dictate your success regardless of how you stack the last two.

And of the last two is would suggest most of the time knowing what to do is more important than brute strength.

Choose wisely <but always choose the first two or you will get crushed>.

 

I offer these two lists because when anyone suggests zigging when someone zags I bring these out.

Shit.

I bring these two lists out almost any time a business wants to talk about effectively competing in an industry.

 

Why?

 

Because nothing really matters if you do not figure out these two lists.

 

Why?

 

Temporary as long asGoing back to what I said earlier … advantages are temporary   and the other guys/gals you are competing against are as smart as you are.

You don’t zig just for the sake of zigging <that is wasted organizational energy> and if you do have to take an unexpected move it is most typically a response to something in the situation.

 

While we like to talk about zigging and zagging the reality comes back to the highway. You have to move forward and keep moving forward <or get run over>.

The only zigging anyone should ever talk about is either moving into another lane to pass someone or another lane to let someone pass you or change lanes to avoid a crash.

 

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“Desperation is the raw material of drastic change.

Only those who can leave behind everything they have ever believed in can hope to escape.

 

—-

William S. Burroughs

 

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Unexpected moves just to do something unexpected is … well … stupid.

It is in the same category as change for change sake.

It is in the same category as zigging when they zag.

 

Now.

 

Unexpected moves made in the search for something incredible waiting to be known <some desired destination>? Well … yeah … that isn’t stupid.

 

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“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”

 

—-

Carl Sagan

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.......... zig zag mistake ................

……………. zig zag mistake …………….

Unexpected moves made to survive on the competition highway? That isn’t stupid.

 

Unexpected moves made to veer through a window of opportunity that arises? That isn’t stupid.

 

But zig when they zag? C’mon. That’s just stupid.

 

It is stupid because more likely than not it just means you will have not left the comeptition behind but rather just left the competition.

Enlightened Conflict