Congratulations to our colleague, Rick Nason, on the publication of his new book, It’s Not Complicated. Thanks so much for the generous acknowledgment and for the quote in the book. We had fun reviewing it on Amazon…
Rick provides “a new way to think about business problems and issues”. This is explained throughout as understanding the difference between complicated and complex and embracing that difference. The complicated “can be separated and dealt with in a systematic and logical way” while the complex cannot be separated out…”there are no rules, algorithms”. The difference is profound but we have muddled the two words together even using them interchangeably.
The complicated can be codified with predictable and reproducible outcomes so success is well defined and often pre-ordained. Too many businesses and managers have become hooked on this construct because “Things that are complicated are well defined. They allow us to feel intelligent when we master them; they allow us to feel necessary; and perhaps most importantly, they allow us to feel that we are in control.” We crave order, love the predictability of patterns, and get a rush from solving the complicated. That is much easier than addressing the complex with its nonlinear nature, randomness, loss of control, and richly interconnected and interdependent holistic make-up.
This book is incredibly well-timed. I am assisting a company that actively addresses the complicated versus complex conundrum for businesses. Syntegrity’s platform combines scientific methodologies and proprietary technologies to quickly solves the most complex challenges while clearing the way for execution. That last bit is important. Even when you solve the complex that does not mean you have the momentum or buy-in to implement. But I digress…back to Rick’s book.
He beautifully confronts “the false axioms of business” that trap us in existing formulas. This chapter is rife with insights that hold us back from becoming more comfortable with complexity. These axioms include “people are complicated”, “problems are tractable”, “planning is essential”, “experts know something” and “brains win”. That last one was highly compelling. He states, “The essence of this myth is that, with enough talent, brain power, and resources, business problems will be solved.” Human history shows that that is not true.
While this is a complex topic (all pun intended) Rick breaks it down and uses extremely helpful examples. His goal is not to intellectualize but to arm business leaders and managers with tools to take on real complexity. You will discover that this involves human nature so we all must embrace emergence, act with empathy, build connections and much more. This is almost a process of unlearning because we are patterned so much to linear complicated problem-solving not nonlinear, loss of control complexity or, as he puts it, “the traditional reductionist “command-and-control” complicated paradigm” versus a “complexity-thinking paradigm”.
The book will get you thinking and hopefully doing, that is, embracing and managing complexity. Lastly, once read, you will appreciate the book’s title even more.