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Because Simple is hard
3 min read

Because Simple is hard

There is a famous quote by Einstein where he says, "Everything Should Be Made as Simple as Possible, But Not Simpler". And you wonder what he really means by that.

Our thinking, and by virtue of that, our understanding of things evolve over time. And if we understand something better, our ability to improve something or build a better solution also improves.

We all start off with a hypothesis and then as we go through a divergence process, feel we are getting more information, and then at a point when we start having all the information we need, it starts to connect - we throw away the things that don't connect and we arrive at a resolution. Between the hypothesis and the resolution, we now have a new understanding.

Truth is, we go through this cycle again and again - which is triggered sometimes by the passing of time (when realities shift) or when priorities change.

The cycle of divergence and convergence continues, and between each resolution, we have a more appropriate (and deeper) understanding of what we have been thinking about.

For eg, my understanding of what is a startup, has gone through several iterations, over the years.

In a more pictorial form, this drawing by the legendary Picasso made brilliant sense.

The goal seems to be to get to the simple version of the bull. But as he starts off, it seems to be heading the wrong direction. Stage #2 and #3 are invariably more complex than the starting point.

But if you look closer, it is interesting. What is happening is that, you see the artist exaggerate the elements that make a bull a bull (at least visually). And in the next stage, he details out the aspects of the structure, which then become the framework for what comes after - which is to remove everything which isn't the bull.

"The idea is there locked inside. All you have to do is remove the excess (stone)" - Michelangelo

It is almost akin to surgical procedure where you add things, to identify what is and what isn't, and remove what isn't.

It does take sophistication to make things simpler, but if you understand the process, it makes things a bit less frustrating - and you might even enjoy the process.

And as an entrepreneur remember, that at any given point in time you are at least building three different things - you are building up people, you are building up an org and you are building a product. The way people are wired and the org that you are, reflects in the product you are building. So if you want to build simple and sophisticated products, then you need evolved and elegant organizations around polished beings.

Also read: Conway's Law in The Right Structure

With that in mind, read this again from the top, and see how it applies to people and organizations. When you find an amazing person for your team, but they have sharp edges that are causing problems, the same process applies. Same for organizational rules and culture that causes issues.

Remember, that things are exaggerated immediately, but if you keep at it, and the intent is clear, what remains is what is important. I'm realizing, that perhaps this is what they meant when they said, it will get worse before it gets better.

To circle back to Einstein's statement, if you just make things simpler, it might actually be worse off, than it started. You have to see it through to the end goal of making it simple.


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