Bits of Life Missed Worth Exploring

The Need For Tension Between Simplicity and Detail


I find that there are two major types of people in the world. One that jumps to conclusions quickly. The other enjoys the journey of learning about the details. There is only a minority who dance between the two in ways that will become apparent and much more meaningful.

Those that offer answers quickly to situations are not concerned about detail. Their conclusions come either from their beliefs or worldview and many times are heavily influenced by those around them. Be it in person or digitally (through social media). They are less prone to stop and consider the possibility that they may be wrong. There is no aspect of riskiness in what they think. They tend to be very certain and unwilling to budge. Making their conclusions suspect as to their accuracy or validity.

Others approach situations wanting to know more about the situation itself. Their weakness appears through not only the number of questions they have but also that many of their questions seem small or unimportant to the situation. Risk is top of mind for these individuals. Wanting to not be wrong, their research continues and continues. Unwilling to make a decision (which is a form of a conclusion). Either their lack of experience or personal lack of confidence slows them down to a stop. Never assessing what gaps there are in their knowledge.

A minority of people, when faced with a situation that requires a decision or conclusion, start simplistically with what appears to be true on its surface. But then, picking areas of doubt (in their own mind) in their preliminary assessment by focusing on what they don’t know, Their research leads to questions to fill in the gaps in their knowledge. Not to simply learn more about a situation. Their inquiries are meant to fill in a picture. Giving them an opportunity to build context and perspective around a situation before concluding what needs to be done.

The masters of this then are able to communicate accurately, a simplified overview of the situation. Its severity, risks, and options to mitigate or manage what they face. The simplicity of their thinking occurs after starting with simplicity, they go to the details and then come back to simplicity. Giving them a direction that they can commit to. Their simple explanation after their iterative research into the details then leads them to a stronger conclusion that can be acted on effectively.

Simplicity and details need to live in tension with each other. Sometimes leaning on one and then the other. Signal and noise are other ways of describing this tension. When faced with a situation, you need detail to figure out what is noise (irrelevant to determining a solution or path forward) and what is signal (the final simplification of the situation constructed with context and perspective that is stronger and has more credibility) that then leads to an effective decision/conclusion/or next step action item.

Much like a previous post talked about the risk of solving the wrong problem, this movement between simplicity to detail and then back again is another way of testing whether we see the correct problem to solve. Some may call this perspective. Others may call it pattern recognition from years of experience. Either way, it’s an important tension that needs to become your friend for you to improve your own decision-making.

Bits of Life Missed Worth Exploring


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