In Search of Simplicity!

Gary Ryan Blair 12-17

There are two extremes in life – simplicity and complexity. All other extremes are just manifestations of these. Complexity whether in product design, decision-making or any daily function is to be avoided at all costs. Complexity is the curse of the digital age. It is a type of intellectual pollution that smothers clear thought and which has direct negative benefits on worker productivity, customer delight, and corporate profitability.

Simplicity is the property, condition, or quality of being simple or un-combined. It often denotes beauty, elegance, sophistication, 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. In fact, without conscious, 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 us. Our modern world generates complexity at warp speed. Where once we communicated with the outside world by fixed phone or mail, we now have to deal with phone, mobile phone, fax, e-mail, voice-mail, internet discussion groups, web casts - the list goes on. Where once we had filing cabinet we now have a desktop, laptop, palm-top and mobile 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.

Life is complicated enough and technology should not add to the problem. Manufacturers should be committed to making technology that makes sense, that's easy to use, that's designed around how people life and work. In other words, technology that's pure and simple. The driving force of innovation and technology should be grounded in simplicity. Simplicity is a good thing. It does not precede complexity, but follows it. It removes waste from our value chains. It saves time and money. It improves decision making to give you a new competitive advantage – a leg up on less efficient and effective firms who fail to peel away the complexity of their organizations. It is the new competitive advantage.

As a matter of course, modern evolution contains the seed for complexity. It certainly doesn't encourage simplicity. Have you ever seen anybody advertising a television "now with less features?" Or an automobile manufacturer offering a product "downgrade?" Wall to wall complexity is here to stay. Which leaves us with two choices: We can be swept along on this wave of complexity, becoming increasingly rushed as we try to fit everything in and absorb everything thrown at us. Or, we can make conscious decisions and hard trade-offs to start simplifying our businesses and our lives, to start pruning away the unnecessary and getting back to basics.

Achieving absolute simplicity is something none of us will ever achieve. However if we don't make some concerted effort, if we don't train ourselves to look for ways to simplify, we can guarantee our lives will become more complex, busier, less efficient and more stressful. I wish you the very best in your search for simplicity.


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