Vlog Episode 8.3 - Inherent Simplicity
Goldratt’s words were, “Every situation, no matter how complex it initially seems, is exceedingly simple.” This is also hard to swallow at first. We all have complicated problems, situations that we don’t know what to do with. Life would hardly be life without these, and of course they are hard and complex. If they were simple, we’d solve them and move on. Right?
Well, it turns out that there are two ways to look at the concept of complexity. We can look at it narratively or symbolically. We’re wired to go the narrative route. That means that we will see as simple, the simplest explanation in terms of a coherent narrative. Think of it as the shortest number of words. So if I say a patient has a fever, a headache, fatigue, and a cough, that sounds pretty simple. He has four problems. Saying that way sounds simple but it also leads us to think we’ll need four different solutions for these four different problems.
If instead I described it as, “The patient has a pneumococcal infection thinking their mucous and initiating a complex inflammatory process as part of an immunological defense. The defense includes the release of cytokines which cause the fever and interact with the central nervous system causing fatigue. Both the initial infection and the response make the mucous thicker and harder to cough, so the can’t move the mucous well causing an increased intracranial pressure and a headache.” It sounds way more complex, doesn’t it.
While the second explanation sounds more complex, it’s actually simpler. It has a single cause, pneumococcal infection, and therefore, a single solution. It has one degree of freedom, while the narrative description has 4. From a physics point of view, 4 degrees of freedom doesn’t happen in stable system. In other words, people with more than one (or perhaps two) problems don’t get out of bed in the morning.
So we’re wired to think narratively, but the solutions are most easily found when we think symbolically. This causes us to miss the easiest solution and get stuck with the problem. Being stuck with it makes it all the more believable that it’s complex. Most of us are running around with the belief in problems that are hard that perhaps aren’t really that complex.
We have a terrible problem with addiction in our country, and most of us believe it’s a complex, hard to fix thing. We we actually spent the time to do a TOC logic tree called a current reality tree (spoiler - I have), we might find out that it isn’t as complex as we thought. We can end it as a problem in our lifetime, but not if we keep thinking narratively.