Life is complicated. The more I think about it the more complicated it becomes. It seems as if complexity is an inherent part of the way the world works. It’s that second law of thermodynamics again.
It states that (forgive me for I paraphrase) ‘In any closed system the amount of usable energy is always less than the total potential energy and as the amount of usable energy decreases entropy, the degree of disorder in the system will increase.’ Disorder is the natural order. Entropy always wins. Simplicity unravels into complexity.
Yet the fight against complexity is what keeps us in a job. It is one of the main functions of management and leadership. We are here to stop things form falling apart or to put things back when they have. Management is a fight against entropy. It is an unfair fight. It picks on someone much smaller than it is and one day it will win.
Time is on entropy’s side. We only have our four score and ten. It has to the end of all time. In fact entropy will mark the end of all time. When disorder is absolute, time will cease to exist. Who knows?
But is simplicity the opposite of complex? Perhaps it is but then again perhaps it is possible to have the two as happy bedfellows. Perhaps it is possible to make the complex easy to understand, to make things simple rather than simplistic.
This is the role of leadership. To make the complex comprehensible. A lot of what we do is difficult to understand and our role should be to take a step back and break it down into a way that people can pick up.
Our natural tendency though can be the other way around. Making things hard to understand is a great way of preserving our own role. Only a specialist can make sense of what needs to be done. A special language is required. If you want to stick around then make sure you have the knowledge and information. Complexity and obscurity will support our aims.
Yet specialisation is the last stage before extinction. Become too specialised and too complicated and we will find that people will learn to do away with your services. They will find other ways to work round us. Our skills will go the way of the Dodo. Darwin will have his revenge.
Leaders should build simplicity into everything that they do. They should transform the incomprehensible into the comprehensible and bring the obfuscated into plain view. They should find a way to tell their story better. They should use the language of their customers.
Managers should build simplicity into everything that they do. They should look at the processes they are responsible for and simplify them. They should remove blockages, they should improve flow and they should remove waste. They should find a way to tell their story better. They should use the language of their team.
Simplicity may not be inherent yet it helps enormously to move our lives forward. We need to fight the good fight against the second law of thermodynamics.