After reading Simplexity: Why Simple Things Become Complex (and How Complex Things Can Be Made Simple), I find myself taking pause. It’s harder than usual to coalesce my thoughts.

Complexity figure

This book is an easy enough read, but it’s also a bit disconnected. As author Jeffrey Kluger suggests, “simplicity and complexity may masquerade as each other,” but I’m still left feeling like the mask hasn’t been adequately identified or removed. Perhaps I expected too much from the text. After all, as the author points out, complexity research is still a young scientific pursuit–an unsettled (formative) field. If the science is young, the pop science equivalent seems all the more premature.

I do have a few take-aways to share from my read, though:

  • View a conference as a group of people exchanging information and insights, keynoting ideas and tempering whatever action is eventually taken by exploring lots of options first. Conferences are indeed great opportunities for milling and annealing–it’s the networking, stupid! Thanks to Simon Guest and his vision to bring open space to events like the Microsoft MVP Global Summit and the Microsoft Strategic Architect Forum (SAF), I’m surprised that more conferences don’t feature open space more prominently.
  • With respect to social signaling, signaling abilities are influenced from building group connections. For example, a signaler you know well becomes more persuasive than a signaler you don’t. The amount of time your spend with other individuals changes their ability to influence you and your ability to influence them. (I realize that this take-away is rather obvious, but it bears (personal) repeating.)
  • Referring to work by Mark Gottfredson and Keith Aspinall, I appreciated becoming aware of a so-called Model T analysis to find one’s innovation fulcrum and stay perched there upon the respective complexity arc.
  • Having seen the power of strongly held beliefs myself, I appreciated the following turn of words in evidence of complexity confusion: “The entrenched anthropology of the place, however, turned out to be more powerful than the new lessons.”
  • “A bunch of isolated [sports] conferences is like a bunch of isolated economies. If you don’t allow them to mix, they stay primitive because you have no way of comparing them.” -Ken Massey (For example, will CMIS impact the ECM industry in ways similar to inter-league play in MLB?)
  • “We pride ourselves on being the only species that understands the concept of risk, yet we have a confounding habit of worrying about mere possibilities while ignoring probabilities, building barricades against perceived dangers while leaving ourselves exposed to real ones.” (So, what do you confuse for a snooze alarm that should be a wake-up call, or vice versa? What is only temporarily agitating that deserves longer-lasting follow-through? What is over- or under-thought?)
  • “The nature of people who love electrons and bits is very different from the nature of people who love atoms.”
  • “If you have to ask what jazz is, you’ll never know.” -Louis Armstrong

Toward the end of his work, Mr. Kluger states: “Understanding the hard science of a thing is not always the same as being able to make any use of that knowledge.” I still need to understand the hard science of complexity (e.g. go beyond software engineering’s essential complexity versus accidental complexity debates). Simplexity wasn’t my ticket to this performance.