Archives for posts with tag: Complexity

Have you ever heard the glorious phrase ‘piling Pelion on Ossa’ before? I hadn’t, until this morning, and I have somewhat of an education in classical cultures. Bear with me though, because it’s right on topic.

I was chatting to an old mate – old in terms of mateyness rather than age necessarily – of mine earlier today and he said something was like piling Pelion on Ossa. ‘What on earth does that mean?’ I asked. He told me about an essay he’d written at college and next to the same point he’d made for the third time in the same paragraph his tutor had marked that he was piling Pelion on Ossa.

It turns out that the phrase means introducing further complexity or redundancy to something that is already difficult enough, like putting one of the two Greek mountains Pelion and Ossa on top of the other. If you’re a regular reader of this blog you need to reevaluate your priorities, but you’ll also know that I’m a big fan of keeping it simple and avoiding complexity in our messaging and interactions.

How cool is that!? I encourage you all to wedge this fantastic phrase into everyday conversation this week, and see what kind of a reaction you get.

Blankness and a raising of the eyebrows will be up there I would imagine…

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Avoiding complexity is good. No matter how complex your business is, or your life, it pays to strive to avoid complexity. We humans don’t deal well with complexity, which is why a winning approach is to simplify, to reduce, to unify, to distil.

I was reminded of this the other day when travelling. Ireland is a small country, with a few million people. Its infrastructure is correspondingly small, and it’s pretty simple.

I took the train from one side of the country to the other every week for five years. I think it was more than 10 minutes late once or twice in all that time. The coach service is the same. The small number of airports too. The Dublin-based bus service is less reliable, but there are hundreds of buses and tens of services. The complexity thing again.

Then there’s the UK, much bigger, much more populated, and with its hugely complicated rail service and airports. Unreliability is somehow innate. I was flying into Bristol. Did you know that Bristol is the highest airport in the UK? It was built in the second world war for pilots to practice flying and landing in the fog. Well, guess what, it was foggy yesterday, so we tried to land twice and got diverted to Cardiff, in another country.

We then had to take a specially laid on coach to Bristol airport, except that it took us 15 minutes and 3 goes to exit the airport barriers. We drove through the city of Bristol where 75% of the passengers were heading, but didn’t stop as the service was point to point, out-of-the-way airport to out-of-the-way airport. We finally got to our destination 4 hours later than advertised.

Complexity is the problem. When you make things too hard, stuff goes wrong. And who suffers? Your end customer, which means that eventually so will you.