Have you noticed how things tend towards increasing complexity? As time goes by, layers are added. Things are piled on.
I like the approach promoted by Ward Cunningham, the inventer of the wiki. He asks, “Simplicity is the shortest path to a solution. You are always taught to do as much as you can. I say, forget all that and ask yourself, ‘What’s the simplest thing that could possibly work?’”
Have you noticed that things that begin as a neighborly conversation between co-workers can escalate into a policy-based, governance-moderated process? In an effort to codify into a repeatable process, complexity can be added to both the development process and to the final solution.
Let me apply this in the area in which I lead: technology development.
In The Power of Less, Leo Babauta suggests that simplicity is a two step process. To paraphrase Babauta and apply it to technology systems development, the two step process is: identify the essential elements of what your solution should do, and then eliminate the rest. In the era of extreme programming and rapid application development, don’t build into this version what is not needed until next version. (Kind of the technology implementation of Jesus’ teaching “do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34)
Why do we tend towards increasing complexity?
I think it is driven by a scarcity mindset rather than abundance mindset. Complexity is an effort to become efficient because time and money is scarce. But if we can find ways to keep things as simple as possible, we open opportunities for others to engage with us. We can leverage our network.
Jesus contrasted complex prayer and simple prayer (Matthew 6:7-13).
And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words [added complexity]. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
“This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’
Simple prayer. Only the essential elements. What is the simplest prayer that can convey my heart?
Like simplicity in prayer, simplicity in technology is a powerful path towards effective solutions.
In what ways have you seen simplicity move the mission forward?