The power of simplicity: how to manage our complexity bias - Ness Labs - Deepstash
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We prefer complexity over simplicity

We prefer complexity over simplicity

People tend to prefer complex solutions over plain ones.

  • Complexity can make products look more impressive - and marketers know how to take advantage of it by projecting authority and expertise.
  • Complex processes can give the illusion of productivity while really delaying decision-making.

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The power of simplicity

Simple thinking can lead to better plans, communication, and execution.

  • The KISS principle (keep it simple, stupid) makes simplicity a key goal in design.
  • Less is more. Architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe always repeated this saying to stress the importance of extreme simplicity.
  • Simplify, then add lightness. A leader in the minimalist movement and founder of the Lotus Cars, Colin Chapman, urged his designers to simplify, then add lightness.

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Antoine de Saint Exupéry

"It seems that perfection is reached not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away."

ANTOINE DE SAINT EXUPÉRY

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Why we are drawn to complexity

We associate complexity with expertise, innovation, and authority.

Complexity is often smoke and mirrors. Marketers are aware of the allure of complexity and will exploit our complexity bias by using jargon to impress rather than to inform customers. For example: “Utilising a Vita-Ciment® Complex, Kérastase Resistance Bain Force Architecte, is a strengthening shampoo that has been specially formulated to cleanse and fortify damaged hair at erosion levels 1-2”

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Edsger Wybe Dijkstra

"Simplicity is a great virtue but it requires hard work to achieve it and education to appreciate it. And to make matters worse: complexity sells better."

EDSGER WYBE DIJKSTRA

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Complexity is a moving target

While simplicity can lead to innovative thinking, complexity is often used to impress rather than to help.

Complexity is not all bad. Some complexity is desirable. When things are too simple, it is often boring. The ideal level of complexity is a moving target - the more expert we become, the more complexity we prefer. We can find a good balance by asking if this complexity level adds to the experience or overcomplicates it.

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