In my last blog post, The “Art” of Complexity and the “Smart” of Simplicity (Part 1), I provided key insights on complexity-simplicity dynamics in light of quotes from William Collins, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein and Bill Jensen. This blog post provides additional insights leveraging six more quotes.
7. “The biggest barrier most companies now face in delivering value is managing the complexity of their own business processes.”
– Tom Nies, Founder & CEO, Cincom Systems
Complexity is the new reality, and the rapid escalation of complexity is identified as the number-one challenge facing CEOs as per IBM Global CEO Study. According to IBM, 79% of CEOs predict even greater complexity ahead. However, more than 50% doubt their ability to manage it. Clarifying, capitalizing and conquering complexity is going to be a top strategic imperative for the organizations all over the world.
8. “I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.”
– Oliver Wendell Holmes
This ties in beautifully with the quote #3 by Winston Churchill in that you have to nail complexity before you nail simplicity. Because the simplicity that comes before true understanding of all the nuances and complicating factors is all superficial, inane and naive. Such simplicity does not provide any value to anyone. Eric Berlow in his 3 minute video at TED showed how complexity leads to simplicity. Also, often times, the true answer is also remarkably simple, you just have to be on the far side of complexity in order to see it clearly.
9. “Really, I am not afraid of complexity at all. On the contrary, this just motivates me.”
– Jacques Pellas, Secrétaire Général, Dassault Aviation
It all boils down to the notion of customer value creation. Would we rather be perceived as a complex enterprise that creates enormous value for our customers or a simple enterprise that creates almost no value for our customers? If complexity enables us to deliver step-change value to our customers, it is absolutely worth it. On the contrary, if complexity gets in the way of serving and delighting our customers, it is an internal complication that needs to be eradicated.
10. “We struggle with the complexities and avoid the simplicities.”
– Norman Vincent Peale
Complexity and simplicity always exist together as two sides of the same coin. Good complexity is our company’s know-how and know-why honed over the years to build our competitive advantage, while simplicity on the other side is masking this complexity (behind the curtains) to deliver the most intuitive, compelling and delightful customer experiences. It is only when we add the complexity of human behavior to the complexity of markets, customers and enterprise that we begin to see the total picture.
11. “When things look very simple, you need to look for a competitive edge. When things are complex, you simplify to get the competitive advantage.”
– Graeme Liebelt, former Managing Director and CEO, Orica Limited
In order to outwit our competition, we need to constantly develop a set of distinctive capabilities that can only be mastered and delivered by us. We should also inspect each and every aspect of our business (i.e. processes, technology, people interactions) and anything that takes away from our quest for “total customer experience” needs to be simplified.
12. “In today’s dynamic environment, Simplexity (i.e., simultaneous perfection of simplicity and complexity) is the organization’s only form of sustainable competitive advantage.”
– Sanjiv Karani
In the current global, turbulent and hyper-competitive environment, complexity/simplicity is no longer an either/or proposition. In order for you to drive and thrive in this economic environment, you require the mastery of both complexity and simplicity. As Scott Fitzgerald said, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” Complexity and simplicity are perhaps the most important opposing ideas that we deal with on an ongoing basis.
Long live complexity! Long live simplicity!
What are your own unique experiences in the complexity/simplicity journey?