We are faced with a world of complexity. We also have a craving for simple and easy. Our brains and our psyches would really prefer to avoid the messy realities of the world and the inherent difficulty of trying to solve persistent and intractable problems. When faced with a complex problem, we will very often substitute a much simpler answer and pretend that is true. This is where simple gets very complex indeed.
Simple models can provide powerful insights. So what does a simple model look like, and how do you develop one? And in particular, how do you ensure that it focusses on the things that matter most? Making choices in design—what to include, and what to leave out—are fundamental. A thought exercise in reinventing the project plan.
There are times that I marvel at the value that a simple model provides. And yet we often go out of our way to make things difficult, to be as detailed and comprehensive as we can. Rather than looking for what is essential, we ask for everything. Yet simple models can have surprising depth behind them. And they can be extraordinarily powerful in helping to make sense of complex situations.
How we deal with complex problems is challenging. Our minds evolved to take shortcuts and make things easy. There is a lot of danger in doing so when we confront truly difficult situations. We need to find simple—but not simplistic—ways of communicating complex and complicated relationships and information.