"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication" Leonardo da Vinci
In an increasingly complex world 'simplicity' is becoming one of the four key values.
Edward de Bono's book Simplicity is a demonstration that our society has overcomplicated it's existence and in turn is complicating our lives day in day out.
It provides us with a simple yet effective way to simplify our lives!
What I found interesting that early in the book it was stated that You must want to simplify. You have to want to look for simplicity. You have to be motivated to design simplicity. Whose business is it to make things more simple? Thus we all need to simplify our lives and all of the things we do. All of the time.
There is always a better solution to anything as long as we make it a habit of thinking of simple solutions to all problems. The time invested is worth it.
In order to make anything simple the person doing it needs to indicate mastery over the subject. Otherwise we would get even more complexity due to ignorance.
How to simplify
There are many ways to simplify. The most important task is to avoid complexity.
- Take anything existent and start simplifying it until you've got the bare minimum usable parts which gets the job done. "Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away." Antoine de Saint-Exupery
- If nothing exists then create a very simple design.
- Is there an accepted solution somewhere? Why not spending time on making it simpler. If something is accepted by the majority then it doesn't mean that it's good!
The author talks about many other ways to simplify anything. While reading the book I could'nt help but compare many aspects in our lives. Simplicity can be compared to software refactoring. Not only is it making the software easier for the end user it's also making it easier for the software developer to read, understand and modify.
An interesting way to simplify is to just start afresh.
This often occurs in software development when once in a while the code has become unmanageable or too complex. The solution is to rewrite everything from scratch. And that's a good solution taking.
When in doubt ask yourself: Why are we doing this?
Every aspect can be analyzed for ways in which people do something. If people take shortcuts it means that the current ways are to complex.
Bureaucracy and the National Institute for Simplicity
It's clear that the author identified the flaws of bureaucracy. The making of things more complex than necessary. Since there is an interesting portion of the book dedicated to bureaucracy.
What is the core purpose of a many bureaucracies? To continue their existence.
The purpose of any operation should be to deliver value to someone. And the best to deliver value to everyone.
National Institute for Simplicity
What I enjoyed most what the refreshing ideas of creating a National Institute for Simplicity.
Something may be a very good idea but it does not happen unless someone is given the responsibility of making it happen.
The game of simplicity needs to be as clearly defined as was the way of quality.
The role of the Institute for Simplicity is explained simply:
- Pass pass judgement on all new laws, regulations, procedures, etc. The institute would examine these things and then declare them to be: acceptable, complex, much too complex.
- The institute would set up task forces to try to find simpler ways of doing things which seemed too complex. This would be done in co-operation with other bodies. The institute would provide the catalyst and the driving force but the main work would be done by people in their own field.
- The institute would have a research and education function.
- There would be a monitoring body to make sure the institute itself did not become too complex.
Getting involved in trying to make things more simple is good for you and good for society. It is almost as important as ecology.
Simplicity should become a permanent fashion.
Simplicity in our lives
The Minimalistic Life
At the moment it's clear that we all have a complex life one. Complexity gives birth to stress. Which in turn causes many health issues. There are movements worldwide called "minimalist" lifestyle
The whole concept of minimalistic and simple life can be traced back to more than 2000 years ago. There where people who gave up their lives to lead a simple life.
And by all means, those days people already had a simple life!
Simplicity is the state when everything is clear and easy to use. The main aim of simplicity is communication by providing clarity to the receiver.
A product that is simpler will always be better than one that is complex. There is a company with the name of a fruit that sells products based on this concept. Does it sell? Certainly. However in the past 3 years it has started over-complicating things to the point that people are beginning to wonder why they buy in the first place.
Companies that sell with success fall into 2 categories.
- They either create products which are simple to use and provide real value
- Are monopolies and have a lot of marketing hype around them
When people will value simplicity in it's fullest capacity then companies will start focusing on 1.
Avoiding oversimplification is easy. Have the bare minimum requirements and for anything to function and nothing less.
Conclusion and rating
Edward de Bono has written numerous books on Thinking including 6 Thinking Hats, Lateral Thinking and is the author of the Cognitive Research Trust (CORT) "Thinking COurse".
This book is a great eye opener in the need of simplicity in our lives. If you want something more practical I recommend taking the CoRT course.
The book has stories and it could use some more engaging stories. Although I'm glad the author is British since this is not a book full of stories and without any practical value.
Practical Value: 4/5
The book has practical advice although it's a little bit too abstract sometimes. The main idea of simplicity is easily transferred and can be applied to anything
Engaging and fun: 4/5
You can feel deliberate attempt has been made by the author to make the book fun to read. It's engaging and fun to read
Total Rating: 3.75/5
Would you like to help create a National Institute of Simplicity?
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