Have you ever wanted to tackle a problem, but become overwhelmed by the complexity inside your organization? It could be the internal politics, or the complex organizational structure, or the barriers within your corporate culture or simply that the problem is huge and solving it isn’t going to be easy.
You aren’t alone.
We’ve all been there.
I have some good news for you.
Your Organization’s Complexity is a Story You are Telling Yourself
Complexity is just a story. And that story is a lie. We hold onto these stories with passion. We don’t want to believe that we are the problem. We want some external force or factor to hold the responsibility. These are all lies. Many times complexity becomes the excuse we use to hold us back from doing something really great. We tell ourselves, “It’s simply too complex to navigate through the various ________ (fill in the blank) in order to do ________ (fill in the blank). “
Complexity is an easy out. And it is usually backed by insecurity. Many of us simply don’t have the confidence and perseverance it takes to get to a solution. It’s not that a solution isn’t possible.
“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage — to move in the opposite direction.” – Albert Einstein
If you don’t believe me, take a look at some of the great break throughs and innovations from our lives.
- The internet
- Social networking
- Wi-fi, Bluetooth
- The first draft of the human genome
- Stem cell therapy
- Turning water into fuel
- Growing organs from a patient’s stem cells
- Building a reusable rocket that could get us into space
That’s just a short list. Do you think any of the problems these innovations solve isn’t complex? Heck yeah, they are complex. There were various challenges and roadblocks, but they were all solved or just plowed through in order to get to the solution.
If all of these were possible, isn’t it also possible that the complexity of our organization is just a lie we have been telling ourselves that is holding us back from our true potential?
Reframe your thinking
The first step is to recognize stories like this for what they are, stories. They are the things we tell ourselves to talk us into or out of something. They don’t represent reality. When you recognize that you are telling stories in your head, stop, tell yourself this is just a story I’m telling myself, now how can I solve this problem? Here are some questions you can ask yourself to see if you are telling yourself stories that are holding you back.
- Is this story real?
- If this “story” didn’t exist, how would I approach this problem?
- What is the simplest short cut to a solution?
Work towards simplicity instead of complexity
One of the smartest things someone ever said to me was, “Whenever something is so complex that it can’t be described in a couple of sentences it’s usually bullshit.” And you know what, she was 100% right. As I reflected on the conversation that led to that statement I was turning something really simple into something far more complex than it needed to be. It changed everything for me.
“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” – Albert Einstein
I’ve since learned to pull back all the layers of complexity to find the simplest answer. The simple answer is usually hidden beneath all the overthinking we seem to be doing. When you strip away everything until there is nothing left to strip away, you will find amazing things no matter what you are trying to solve. I think we may want to make things complex in order to show our value, to show that we are smart and that no one else could have come up with a solution. But genius is more often found in simple solutions to complex problems.
Just as an example, here are some complex problems I’ve simplified for you.
- We have a culture problem or our culture isn’t aligned.
- You have the wrong people on the bus. Hire A Players.
- We have 20 million divisions in this company and they don’t work together, don’t go to market together, don’t _____ (fill in the blank) together.
- Your customers don’t care about your organizational structure, neither should you. Make it ridiculously easy for them to buy from you and everyone wins.
- We have too many employees to manage; our leadership team would never allow employees to represent our brand on social.
- They already do with or without your permission.
- There are too many politics to do _______ (fill in the blank).
- Politics are a result of individual insecurity. Understand each person’s insecurity and what they need to satiate it.
These are just a smattering of all of the stories we tell ourselves and surround by complexity. If you can recognize them as stories and understand the underlying cause, you will immediately start to see more clearly and solutions will present themselves.
Take 100% responsibility
Have you ever looked at your relationship with your significant other and said we are in a 50/50 partnership? It sounds perfect, right? Except that when only half of anything gets done, well…it isn’t done. We do this in business too; we divide responsibility amongst a small or large group of people and then wonder why things don’t get done. We blame it on complexity, culture or that so and so didn’t live up to their end of the bargain.
“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein
Instead divide responsibility into 100% increments. In your relationship it is a 100/100 split. You are both 100% responsible for everything. Your goals and projects should be the same. If everyone is 100% responsible for the success or failure chances everyone will have true accountability for the outcome. And that my friend is a beautiful thing.
What stories are holding you back? Leave a comment and share your perspective.
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