The Lure of Complexity

Sir William of Occam is best known for what we call “Occam’s Razor” – a rule of inquiry that says the simplest explanation is usually the correct one.

Complexity is alluring because it hides accountability. When problems are made to seem complex, accountability for solutions is hard to pin on one person or on one decision.

When solutions to problems are made to seem complex, the person proposing the solution usually doesn’t bear responsibility for the outcome (and the “person” is usually a committee, further complicating the question of who owns the outcome).

The next time you face a problem, try using this simple set of questions to solve it:

  1. In the simplest terms possible, what is the problem?
  2. What is the simplest, most direct solution to the problem?

At the risk of complicating this post, it’s worth remembering something Albert Einstein once said: “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.”

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