Simple is not the opposite of complex…

To write a simple post about simplicity is hard. I’ve spent the last 10 minutes thinking about the opening sentence for this blog post. So I ended up typing the line above. I’ll try to make this post as simple as possible in a few lines.

We hear everywhere that things should be kept simple but do we truly understand what it means for something to be simple? I’ll suggest that we anchor our definition of ‘simple’ around our definition of ‘complex’. We think ‘simple’ is the opposite of ‘complex’. But it is not. Simple actually means ‘easily understood or done, presenting no difficulty‘. Notice there is no reference to complexity.

– E = MC^2 was Einsteins way of communicating a complex concept simply.

– Google’s homepage is as simple as an interface can get. But underneath that webpage with a white background & a search bar are amazingly complex algorithms.

– The light switch is simple. A baby very quickly figures out what to do with a light switch. A lot of complex stuff has to happen for the light to come on when the switch is flipped.

To get to simple requires very deep understanding of the underlying complexity. When you understand ‘it’ at the simplest level then you probably understand it thoroughly.

To see how well you understand  a thing always ask yourself ‘is this the simplest way I can think about this‘. Your answer will tell you a lot about your mastery of ‘it’.

And that is simply true.



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