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How to Reduce Complexity

There is a lot of talk these days about the increasing complexity of the world. But the real problem is our way of dealing with this complexity: We often make complex things even more difficult by the way we handle them. Here’s how to change that.

How to Reduce Complexity

In How to Think Clearly, technology philosopher Tom Chatfield explains the surprisingly simple rule of thumb when it comes to coping with complexity: How would you explain an issue to a child? This simple question makes your private and work life easier, and if you ask it often enough, the problems that complex issues supposedly cause in your interactions will be reduced to a minimum.

Sure, Mueller from Sales is not a toddler. But it’s more than likely that he has a completely different background, expertise and attitude than you, who are currently trying to explain to him – let’s say – what opportunities and problems a digitized supply chain generates. To make this clear – to him and to all other colleagues – you should proceed with four steps.

Image of: How to Think Clearly
Article Summary

How to Think Clearly

Commit to this effective three-step process that promotes clear thinking and delivers effective communication.

Tom Chatfield Psyche
Read Summary

We explain the steps below, and because we are getAbstract, we also provide you with in-depth reading recommendations from our archive for each step. By the way, these are also written according to the credo of being as clear and simple as possible.

1. Take Stock of Your Thoughts

By employing this simple, iterative activity to clarify your thoughts, you gain a better understanding of your own reasoning process. You will uncover assumptions you hold that may interfere with clear thinking.

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Image of: The Simplicity Principle
Book Summary

The Simplicity Principle

Complexity doesn’t have to rule your life. You can quiet the noise and take a simple approach.

Julia Hobsbawm Kogan Page Publishers Read Summary
Image of: Focus
Book Summary


Paying attention pays dividends, but most people have to reclaim the ability to focus.

Daniel Goleman Bloomsbury Read Summary
Image of: The Bullet Journal Method
Book Summary

The Bullet Journal Method

The best productivity app is still pen and paper.

Ryder Carroll Portfolio Read Summary
Image of: How to Take Smart Notes
Book Summary

How to Take Smart Notes

Free your brain by using a “slip-box” system to store and connect your research information.

Sönke Ahrens CreateSpace Read Summary

The point is not to find one absolute truth. Rather, the aim is to help you explain your stance to yourself so that you are better equipped to communicate your ideas to others. Before delving into the analysis process, take a moment to reflect. Try to relax. Notice how you feel.

Watch the flow of your thoughts as though you were an objective outsider. Identify any fears, regrets, recollections or other thoughts that spring up. These are the raw materials of your thought analysis. 

2. Reflect on Why You Think the Way You Do

Create a numbered list to organize your thoughts sequentially, and try to summarize them with a conclusion. But instead of just accepting this simple conclusion, however, you should reflect on each claim leading to the conclusion, asking why you should accept the claim and what action to take as a result.

Related Summaries in getAbstract’s Library
Image of: The Power of Understanding Yourself
Book Summary

The Power of Understanding Yourself

Take a deep dive into your psyche to learn the whys of your behavior and to build a better you.

Dave Mitchell Wiley Read Summary
Image of: The Art of Authenticity
Book Summary

The Art of Authenticity

To thrive in today’s business climate, you must act with “authenticity.”

Karissa Thacker Wiley Read Summary
Image of: The Inner Edge
Book Summary

The Inner Edge

To be a truly effective leader, first learn to lead yourself.

Joelle K. Jay Praeger Read Summary

Put your claims under the spotlight. Do they hold water? Why, or why not? What follows from those claims? Then, pick apart those deductions. This step-by-step process, Chatfield explains, sheds the “layers of habit, confusion and self-justification” that cloud your thinking.

3. Examine Your Assumptions

Are you basing your claims on hard evidence, or on feelings and experience? Many of your claims will have deep roots in your assumptions: beliefs that may seem logical and self-explanatory to you, but which others might not share. Home in on and pick apart your personal assumptions.

Related Summaries in getAbstract’s Library
Image of: The Person You Mean to Be
Book Summary

The Person You Mean to Be

Make the world a better place by recognizing your blind spots.

Dolly Chugh HarperCollins Read Summary
Image of: The Optimism Bias
Book Summary

The Optimism Bias

Your brain’s optimistic nature can help you make better life and business decisions.

Tali Sharot Pantheon Books Read Summary
Image of: Thinking, Fast and Slow
Book Summary

Thinking, Fast and Slow

“Two systems” vie for control of your mind, and “two selves” decide your happiness. Can all four of you ever get along?

Daniel Kahneman Farrar, Straus & Giroux Read Summary
Image of: What Are Your Blind Spots?
Book Summary

What Are Your Blind Spots?

Clear the blind spots from your management practices to engage and inspire your employees.

Jim Haudan and Rich Berens McGraw-Hill Education Read Summary

Personal assumptions are, in fact, the foundations upon which individuals build their moral code. Deconstruct your personal assumptions, as well as opposing assumptions, and compare your findings.

Only then can you find common ground, identify faulty assumptions and embrace alternative viewpoints.

4. Recognize Gaps in Your Knowledge

Holes in your knowledge are more numerous than filled places. That is the nature of being human, even if you are a genius. By analyzing your thoughts, you display a willingness to justify your stance in a rational way and an open-mindedness to opposing ideas.

Engage in constructive conversations with others to gain perspective on your reasoning. This way you also show you are receptive to changing your mind or being wrong. Employ the “principle of charity” when locked in debate: Take the truth from what your opponents say, even when your opinions diverge.

Related Summaries in getAbstract’s Library
Image of: Open to Think
Book Summary

Open to Think

Dan Pontefract’s “open thinking” system helps you think more creatively and make smarter decisions.

Dan Pontefract Figure 1 Publishing Read Summary
Image of: The Truth Doesn’t Have to Hurt
Book Summary

The Truth Doesn’t Have to Hurt

Performance consultant Deb Bright shows you how to become more proficient at giving and even receiving criticism.

Deb Bright AMACOM Read Summary
Image of: Collaborating with the Enemy
Book Summary

Collaborating with the Enemy

While “collaboration” may have a bad reputation, sometimes it’s the only way to get things done.

Adam Kahane Berrett-Koehler Publishers Read Summary
Image of: Optimal Outcomes
Book Summary

Optimal Outcomes

Learn to free yourself from repeated conflict.

Jennifer Goldman-Wetzler PhD HarperBusiness Read Summary

Don’t suppose that your opponents disagree with you out of hatred or spite; instead, try to understand their perspectives. In a world that is often difficult to navigate – and where new rules apply regularly because change is so rapid – views and opinions that differ from your own are excellent opportunities to constantly rethink your own premises.

So, be honest about what you (maybe) don’t know. Always examine and pick apart your thoughts as though they were your opponents’ opinions.

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15 We read and summarized 15 books with 4045 pages for this article.
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