You can’t avoid complexity in life and in business

In his book Overcomplicated Sam Arbesman, complexity in our modern world is all but unavoidable.  It is one thing that we don’t understand fully.  Most of us don’t really understand the devices we use every day, how changes in the markets drive commerce and the laws that govern our activity. Complexity is not going away and we need to find a way to thrive in complexity.

When we are running a business we want everything to be a simple as possible so that operations flow seamlessly and everybody understands what they need to accomplish. The problem with simple rules is that if you keep them too simple they tend to become ineffective because they are by definition vague, internally this vagueness could lead to departmental conflicts over boundaries and responsibilities; externally keeping things like contracts and agreements exceedingly simple could expose your business to a myriad or risks.

Complexity is unavoidable, Arbesman gives two reasons for this, the first accretion as we build out or on initial simple systems they become larger and more complex, the second interaction we often don’t want to be restricted to the capabilities of one system so we need to create links with other in order to deliver increased benefits.  Think of your organization – has it expanded? Have you had to create new rules and ways of operating as it grows? Do you need to interact with suppliers? How do you manage the relationship with your customers? Finally think about the ever changing legal environment that we operate in and ask yourself this: Have you protected the organization against any possible legal risks as it grew?

In his article for Forbes Magazine Greg Satell, mentions Hillis theory of the Age of Entanglement, in which all of the basic laws have accreted, interacted and recombined into something more like biological ecosystems than merely logical machines.  Dealing with this level of entanglement should not be a second hand consideration and rather than flat out reject the scary reality that markets and laws are just too complex, the best way to deal with this complexity is to embrace with a partner that can help you navigate and make the most of all the possibilities it offers us.

Josh Neimark