complexity is good, complications are bad and Simplicity is misguided


Complexity is good. Complications are bad, yet, some things that are complicated can be extremely useful – but inherently fragile.

If you say you think your business is complex, that’s good. It means your business has a shot of being successful in what is a complex, dynamic, marketplace.

If you say you think your brand is complex, that is good. It means your brand is a reflection of humans – who are complex.

If you think messaging or communicating what your business does is complex, that is good. Complex things are inherently interesting to people <the paradox is multiplicity is interesting but singularity is more easily embedded cognitively>.

Now. Complicated is defined by complexity theory people as linear in nature. Or, as the author of ‘It’s Not Complicated: The Art and Science of Complexity in Business’ Rick Nason suggests, “the components can be separated and dealt with in a systematic and logical way that relies on a set of static rules or algorithms. It may be hard to see, but there’s a fixed order in something that is merely complicated and that allows you to deal with it in a repeatable manner.”

There are a number of people who, theoretically and conceptually, can sit anyone down, even businesses, and parse out some really important distinctions between complexity and complicated. And while it is true complexity and complicated are two different things, in the business world, pragmatically speaking, most business people work with the complicated shit and attempt to reduce or eliminate complications so that potential, within a complex system, can be released. That doesn’t mean complexity shouldn’t be examined nor does it mean complexity shouldn’t be ‘managed’ <or as Donella Meadows suggested “danced with’> just that, in general, complexity is good, complications are bad, complicated is the way most businesses get shit done. For most business conversations, this is how to set the stage to get people to focus on the right things, in the right ways, to get the right things done.

Which leads me to simple or simplicity. We talk about those things all wrong. In fact, I would argue business should just get rid of those words. Toss them into the “misguided and less than useful business thoughts” trash bin.

Everyone should focus on ‘understandable.’


If you buy into complexity and the fact complexity is inherently good <on all aspects of a business>, then the natural achievement to be desired is how to make it understandable.

If you assume complexity is good <and necessary to be successful>, and assume if people understand it, they will:

<a> feel smarter,

<b> feel like they are in & of a world they believe exists,

<c> feel more relevant because it is in & of that world, and

<d> be empowered to take action however that action is defined – buy, decide, choose, think, sensemake, whatever.

Then ‘understandability’, not simplicity, becomes the path to not only thriving in a complex marketplace, but managing a complex business.

I would be remiss if I didn’t end by pointing out the objective of every business is meaningful value creation <the value created has value to whoever it is being offered to>. That means the more understandable you can make your complexity, for those doing & thinking as well as those doing the purchasing, the higher the value you offer and, of course, the higher the price you can charge.



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Written by Bruce