When things get too complicated, people cannot see how success can be achieved, which has an impact on belief, which then can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
People are not afraid of hard work, they're afraid of failure, and when we cannot see how we will be successful, this can cause our teams to quit or not try as hard as they might. According to the research on project failure by Dr. Dobb's, 70 percent of people believed that the projects they were involved in would fail before they even started, and it's highly likely that this belief itself contributed to the failure.
So the more we can simplify, the more successful we can be, and here are three things that we can start doing today to increase simplicity.
1. Ask your team if there is a pencil solution available.
For every problem, there is at least one complex solution, and they are usually very easy to find. We need to make sure that we continue to check for simple solutions and not stop at the first solution found.
I always remind my team of the NASA and the pen story, where NASA allegedly brought together pen experts and spent over $1 million and 12 months to develop a pen that would write in zero gravity and low pressure. The Russians, they just used a pencil.
We need to check to see if a pencil solution exists, and if so, then go with that.
2. Challenge your experts.
Not only do we have a natural tendency to overcomplicate, but being an expert seems to increase this trait. It's almost as if experts need to keep things complex to show how smart they are.
But if only your experts understand it, how will anyone else be able to work on the solution or challenge whether it is the best solution? Having worked in IT, I was always faced with experts, and they would regularly tell me, "This is too complex to explain," or that my level of knowledge was insufficient for me to understand.
But here I always drew on the wisdom on Albert Einstein, who said, "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough."
Experts don't like this because it puts the burden on them to explain it, not on you to understand it, and if they can't explain it simply, then this is a warning. If they don't understand the problem or the solution, how can we be confident that they can solve it? And more importantly, how will they communicate to your teams what needs to be done?
The simpler we can explain things, the more people we can have involved in the implementation.
3. Assume you only have 20 percent of the required time.
I love this approach because it does require you to think differently. We can all probably shave 5 percent to 10 percent of the time needed to complete a task just by doing it the way we already know better, but when we try to complete something with only 20 percent of the required time, then we need to completely rethink our approach.
This mindset shift will get you thinking outside the box, and it will help increase your creative problem-solving skills. It might not always give you a 20 percent solution, but it will challenge the way you think about things and help you see simpler solutions that maybe you were missing out on before.
Richard Branson says, "Complexity is your enemy. Any fool can make something complicated. It is hard to make something simple."
Following these three simple tips will help you not only reduce complexity but become much better at identifying simple solutions which will benefit you and your team and lead to better results.
How do you look to fight complexity and make things simpler?