Change Talk

10 Jun Over-simplifying: The Enemy of Innovation?

For decades we have been viewing organizations as if they are absolutely predictable, machine-like systems. In a “throw a quarter in, get a soda out” mentality, we often act as if it is possible to entirely know what it takes to drive business, resolve issues or maneuver through change. All too readily, we brush over the complexity of the current situation to offer quick solutions as to what needs to be done and why.

If we think we know what to do in practically every business situation we face, we are literally conducting “business as usual”. Falling prey to over-simplifying a complex reality assumes that everything is always the same and we think we can apply the same solutions, the same rationale that we used yesterday to whatever system we are in today.

In reality, our organizations and their interactions with other systems are so complex that many theories suggest that we can really only understand a system in hindsight, after we have seen it interact with other systems under various circumstances. A “business as usual” behavior blocks us from the potential to grow and learn as a collective and rise to the occasion that we are presented with.

Applying new thoughts, new ideas and new solutions starts with understanding that we are dealing with entirely new business realities, new situations that we do not know or claim to fully understand. This notion forces us take a thorough look at issues from all angles and take diverse perspectives into account to create novel solutions.

True, many practical decisions must be made on the spot. However, when it comes to high-impact decisions, more emphasis needs to be put on multi-dimensional, collective and dynamic analysis. If we fail to analyze the precise situation in its entirety we may miss important differences or nuances and make ineffective decisions, possibly leading to organizational inertia in the long run.

If this suggestion sounds like over-simplification itself, don’t underestimate the effort that needs to be put into such an analysis and mindset. While simplifying complex situations is a skill that nature has equipped us with for survival, standing back to look more closely at the nuances of each situation costs time and energy. It requires individual as well as organizational growth towards diverse and innovative thinking. While all in all not an easy process, this approach ensures a deeper collective understanding of the organization and provides a better-informed foundation for dynamic decision-making.

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