A Defense of Simplicity

I realized something recently about simplicity. We need it. Our brains can’t keep up with how complex life is. We try to see and understand, and we do, but what we’re grasping is just a tiny percentage of what’s actually in front of us.

Maybe our inability to fully grasp complexity seems obvious to you. But I’ve thought of an unnecessary philosophical proof for any naysayers. Think about this: If we could understand all complexity, we wouldn’t need categories. If we could understand everything for what it was, without mental shortcuts, we’d never need to simplify life by categorizing. Every time I saw a tree, I wouldn’t think of it as “a tree,” or even as “a maple.” When a stranger met me, they’d think of me as exactly who I am, not “another person” or even “a young-ish white woman with short hair.” They wouldn’t need to group me with anyone else they’d ever known (like women or white people). They’d have space in their brains to fill with the details of the totally unique (and impossibly gorgeous) creature before them.

I have been called many things by many people. Average. Odd. Submissive. Rebellious. Elegant. Awkward. Unfeeling. Over-feeling. Which words are true? I think the people who know me very well would say they all are. People are too complex to be summed up perfectly in a few words.

So what do we, complex people living in a complex world, do about it? I say we work with our limitations. Simplicity can be a beautiful thing. If all my acquaintances only knew one thing about me, and that one thing was good, so be it! Perhaps that would be better, in fact, than if they knew everything about me.

The same principle applies to businesses. You probably don’t want everyone to know all there is to know about your company. What if they only knew the best things—or just the one best thing? What would that be?