An expensive Swiss watch will have lots of “complications”; those wonderfully engineered elements of the device that adds fascination, status and costs, but make no difference to its essential function of telling the time.

As a general rule, professionals from lawyers to bureaucrats thrive on “complications.” In a delicate dance, they take something basic, wrap it in layers and layers of complication that make it inaccessible to the layman without expensive advice from somebody who can translate it into the real world. It is a very profitable dance of power.

Complexity does strange and unpredictable things to complicated.

An article in the Economist gives a great example. The central bureaucracy in France has wrapped the whole issue of the pandemic in complication, from a fifteen option form needed to leave home to matching available vaccine to those who need them. In the latter case, a handful of young data scientists have solved the problem unasked by creating an interface that connects unused vaccine to local need. Simple. Effective. Not for profit. It’s a beautiful demonstration of the principle that you don’t need an expensive watch to tell the time. 

In our everday lives we have become submerged by complications, from commuting to qualifications to HR. Areas that have added layer after layer of difficulty which do more to promote the system’s moderators than increase the function’s effectiveness. 

The pandemic has laid many of them bare. 

Commuting – how does it add to someone’s effectiveness by going to the expense and time of travelling into crowded cities every day? 

Qualifications – an industry of second rate qualifications of less use in the real world than effective apprenticeships gained doing the work. Very good for Pro Vice-Chancellor’s salaries, though.

HR – a vital support function until it would rather run surveys from behind a desk than get out amongst people and talk to them. HR is a leader’s job. Nobody else’s. Simple.

I appreciate these are generalisations to which there are exceptions, but the point holds. If your job relies on unnecessary complications, the geeks are there to help us come to get you.

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