Simple is Never Simple

How many times has someone said, I just want a simple solution? It’s the Apple effect. Simple lines, simple forms, simple interactions, simple naming, simple EVERYTHING. But, simple is so overused that we’ve forgotten its meaning.

Simple should be an attribute of what we strive to make. Simple is not the process that gets us there, it’s not the logic we should implement, and it’s not the thinking we should praise.

Simple should apply to the outcome of a solid, thoughtful, complicated & messy process.

Simple is only simple because someone has removed all the complexity. A single person or team of people have taken on the burden of scratching their heads, pulling out their hair and spending sleepless nights cracking a problem so you don’t have to. Of course, some will do all the aforementioned actions and still not solve the problem; that’s a different conversation. But if you’ve assembled the right team and asked the right question, that time and effort invested will result in a nicely packaged solution all tied up in a bow.

Now, if you ask to see how they got there, prepare yourself. You’ll see the strewn Post-it notes, scribbled over coffee-stained napkins, the drafts that were rejected and the piles of ideas that were abandoned as newer thoughts formed. It won’t be pretty, it may not make sense, and it will definitely seem like more work than necessary, but without that process the beautiful, simple solution would never have been found.


So where has simple gone wrong? Simple should never be dumb. Dumb is what you get when you follow a simple process. If you remove all the complexity from the task at hand, there is no potential for greatness and there is nothing left to solve. Why even bother? The difference between simple and dumb is that simple is only simple in comparison to its previously complex predecessor. It’s merit is based on the fact that the same task, operation or procedure was never before as easy to accomplish. Simple gets it’s value from the complexity hidden behind the surface.

Dumb is none of that. Dumb is a waste of time. Dumb is worthless, and dumb does not solve a problem. While it may be easy to accomplish, dumb provides no real value.

So when you’re looking for that simple solution, either hold on tight and join the messy, complicated ride or close your eyes and let someone tell you when it’s all over. But never stop it. Stopping the complexity and chaos will not result in the solution you are looking for unless by simple, you’re really asking for dumb.


The thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own and do not reflect the views or opinions of my employer.