In today’s complex world many people are trying to simplify their lives but sometimes it becomes very difficult as we have built layer upon layer of interdependent complexity. Edward de Bono, creator of the Six Thinking Hats, stated at a recent seminar that simplicity is more innovative than complexity.
We are living in a world that has become more complex and we need to somehow make it simpler to allow us to focus on the more important aspects of business and personal life. The only way we will do this is through innovation. Edward de Bono in his book “Simplicity” outlines Ten Principles of Simplicity, summarised below:
- Assign a high value to simplicity. To get simplicity you have to want to get it. To want to get simplicity you have to put a high value on it.
- Continuously pursue simplicity. People quite like simplicity if it does not cost anything but are usually unwilling to invest resources in making something more simple.
- You need to understand simplicity. If you do not seek to understand a situation or process, your efforts will be ‘simplistic’ rather than simple. Simplicity before understanding is worthless.
- Design alternatives and possibilities. It is not a matter of designing the ‘one right way’. It is more a matter of designing alternatives and possibilities, and then selecting one of them.
- Challenge and discard existing elements. Everything needs to justify its continued existence. If you wish to retain something for the sake of tradition let that be a conscious decision.
- Be prepared to start over again. In the search for simplicity, modify if you can or start afresh if you cannot.
- Work through concepts. Concepts are the human mind’s way of simplifying the world around. If you do not use concepts, then you are working with detail.
- Break down problems into smaller units. The organisation of a smaller unit is obviously simpler than the organisation of a large unit. The smaller units are themselves organised to serve the larger purpose.
- Trade off other dimensions for simplicity. A system that seeks to be totally comprehensive may be very complex. You may need to trade-off that comprehensiveness for simplicity.
- Know for whose sake the simplicity is being designed. A shift of complexity may mean that a system is made easier for the customer but much more complicated for the operator.
What are you doing to make things simpler in your business and work life, or are you happy working in a complex world?
Dr John Kapeleris