The world has become tremendously complex, and as a result, almost every organization has a desire (and need) to simplify. Simplicity is supposed to be more efficient and make things easier for employees and customers, not to mention more cost efficient. Yet, this is not happening. In a TED talk that has been viewed nearly 2.5 million times, Yves Morieux argues that people are miserable at work because of all of this complexity.

We are surrounded by information and technology, and the pace of change is constantly increasing. Big data was supposed to help bring clarity and focus, but in many instances has resulted in even more indecision based on the alternative analytics generated.

It's hard to argue against simplicity, but many things are inherently complex in nature. In these instances, simplification becomes more about the explanation and communication and less about changing the process. For instance, many technologies are complex behind the scenes (think about Smartphones) and the elegance comes out in the simplicity of the design and user interface. However, don't mistake automation for simplicity--automation can easily become a crutch to mask fundamental problems and avoid difficult changes and decisions.

It can be easy to point a finger at technology for creating more complexity, but in my view there is another enemy of simplicity: the desire for consensus. Humans naturally are inclined to seek harmony and belonging. Reaching consensus allows us to fulfill this desire, especially when conflict is avoided in the process. Almost always, though, a lack of constructive conflict leads to inferior outcomes.

There are two extremes that result from consensus: on the one end something becomes so watered down that it is useless; on the other end it serves so many purposes that it becomes hard to use. Imagine if a car was designed taking into account the every preference of even a dozen people. The car would undoubtedly not be liked by very many because of an overload of conflicting features. On the flipside, you would likely find that important elements would be left out if everyone had to agree on every feature before it was included.

Thus, while you can meet many needs, with a team of any size it is next to impossible to meet all (heck, I bet even Amazon's famous two-pizza teams can't reach consensus on which toppings to order!). Despite this, groups celebrate reaching consensus as if it's the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is to deliver something great, and this will typically require making hard calls. It's not that consensus can never be reached, but that more times than not the end solution will not be as good.

If you want to slow down decision-making, reduce ownership, and add complexity, then consensus is what you need. If you want to move fast, make bold decisions, and find simple but powerful solutions, then you need to take a different approach. That approach is collaboration. Collaboration involves the sharing of ideas, pushing each other to get better, and working through constructive conflict. Focus on creating an environment of collaboration over consensus if you want to take your team and organization to the next level.

Published on: Sep 2, 2015