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Confusing Simplification With Simplistic

by David Brock on December 23rd, 2019

Both we, our customers, our markets, our worlds are getting more and more complex. We face rapid change/disruption, overwhelm/overload, risk/uncertainty, turmoil, constantly shifting focus/priorities/agendas.

In the face of this, we struggle to respond, whether it’s to fix performance problems, address new opportunities, grow and expand.

As leaders and business professionals, we must constantly seek to simplify things. Whether it’s helping our customers better understand and address their own challenges and opportunities, or simplifying how things get done within our own organizations. Constant focus on simplification enables us to achieve our goals, as well as increasing our effectiveness and efficiency.

But, often, we make a major mistake. We confused simplification with simplistic. They are different and lead to very different outcomes.

When we simplify, we recognize complexity and the interrelationship, inter connectivity between things. We do this by thinking in systems and models. Trying to understand the interrelationships between things, recognizing the tradeoffs we make in choosing certain courses of action. We try to balance our approaches in the face of the complex interactions between things. We recognize things are constantly shifting, and that we must be attentive to these shifts, adapting what we do in real time. We recognize we won’t be perfect, though we strive for perfection, we recognize that often, “just good enough,” is just good enough.

But when we succumb to simplistic thinking, we focus on “the solution.” We believe there is one thing, if we get that right, it will solve all our problems, ignoring the impact on everything else.

We think that prospecting is our fix to sales performance and pipeline problems, ignoring our win rates, sales cycle, deal sizes and deal strategies.

We think volume and velocity are the solutions to meeting our numbers.

We think scripting and driving zero variation in customer engagement solves all problems.

We develop rigid processes and manage execution to those processes.

We look for the ideal tool that gives us the answer to working with customers, believing AI/ML is the secret sauce to success.

Simplistic solutions don’t work–at least on a sustained basis. They may be band-aids that address an immediate issue, but are never sustainable.

Simplistic solutions tend to ignore the inter-connectedness of everything we do, and the dynamic nature of complex systems. With simplistic solutions, we tend to be blind to or purposefully ignore the reality we face.

We mus always strive to simplify, but we can never succumb to simplistic.

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