Home > Articles

  • Print
  • + Share This
This chapter is from the book

Simplicity and Complexity

Good managers fail because they don’t understand the difference between simplicity and complexity.

Command-Control management is insufficient to manage in complex ecosystems. Both silver bullets and Command-Control management seek easy solutions, craving a return to simplicity and simpler times.

I recently read a passage in an intriguing book called Making Sense of Wine that offered a view that, counter to popular opinion, we may actually prefer complexity over simplicity.

  • It appears that we are, in fact, set up to respond favorably to complexity. Decades of work in experimental psychology have revealed that when people are free to choose between a simple visual image and a more complex one, they gravitate to the complex. . . .
  • What satisfies us so fundamentally about complexity is still the subject of speculation, largely in the academic field of aesthetics. It appears that we favor. . . uncertainty or lack of predictability.
  • The more things are jumbled, the more ‘information’ can be conveyed at one time. . . . In short, there must be both pattern and uncertainty (complexity) for sustained interest.
  • —M. Kramer [1989], pp. 23, 24.

The final sentence of this passage crystallizes the philosophy behind Adaptive Software Development. ASD is a framework, a pattern, which provides some boundaries and some fundamental principles. At the same time, by being a framework, it remains open to, and moreover acknowledges explicitly, uncertainty and turbulence.

We are drawn to serial, non-iterative methods because they appear to be simple, silver-bullet approaches to managing complexity: “Just follow these 1,432 simple, sequential steps and you will be successful.” But, possibly at some fundamental, philosophical level, what we really crave is a more holistic approach—one that speaks more to our sense of aesthetics than to our fixation on certainty.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account