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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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."

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.

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”

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.
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."

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Why simplicity?

Simple thinking can lead to safer plans, better communication, and easier execution. The power of simplicity is apparent throughout history, where strategists and artists alike strived for simplicity. Let's look at a few examples!

The power of simplicity: how to manage our complexity bias - Ness Labs

nesslabs.com

Negative Capability

Intellectual certainty can limit our creativity. Where lies a certain path, many alternative doors leading to innovative ideas are ignored. In contrast, negative capability is the art of embracing intellectual uncertainty.

Negative capability is about uncertainty, mystery, and doubt, as opposed to “fixed” and “enforced” conceptions of the world. Negative capability encourages us to keep an open mind and always consider the possibility that we may be wrong. Negative capability goes hand in hand with continuous learning, discouraging arrogance, and encouraging personal growth. 

Negative capability: how to embrace intellectual uncertainty - Ness Labs

nesslabs.com

Learning to worry well

Worry is generally seen as a negative thing. But it could also have a positive function.

Worry is an adaptive function to better solve problems and imagine creative solutions. And worrying well is a skill anyone can learn.

Worrying well: how to bring wisdom to your worries - Ness Labs

nesslabs.com

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