21st century meetings.
Surf complexity with inclusive and collaborative meetings.
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Complexity is not about simplicity


When I say complexity can be surfed with 21st century meetings, it’s easy to think the subliminal message here is that 21st century meetings are simple.

Now simplicity and complexity seem to be opposed, and by formal definition they might be. But that’s too simplistic an approach. Simplistic, because it over-simplifies the very fact that complex stuff is well… complex.

Making complex things simple…

is not the challenge we ought to be pursuing. Let me explain…

If I’d ask you to tell me in just one short sentence what your work is about, or how your body functions or what makes a highly complicated product like a smartphone a smartphone, you’d have a hard time answering that question. You’d have to make choices about the words you’d be using, about what features and functionalities to highlight and (more importantly, what not to highlight). And in the end your answer would be a sentence stripped with all details. Your answer might fit the requirement (just one sentence), but you wouldn’t be happy with it. By reducing the complexity, you’ve taken out the life, the nuance and the juicy details of that you were supposed to describe in a simple way.

Simplicity is in its nature a complex task.


Thinking of complexity is paradoxical

So for all the fuzz out there, we as humans actually love complexity. We might not acknowledge so, but the truth is: we do not dump or trade complexity easily for simplification. If we would, our meetings would be a lot easier and speedy.

Yet complexity is infuriating and demotivating! When being in the middle of it (which is most of our time) there’s confusion. All around.

And so it becomes difficult to see where to go. And getting clarity is a daunting task for teams. And so we embark on a simplification quest. But what started as an invitation out of confusion increasingly becomes a difficult and perilous endeavour. Aargh… the group never seems to agree on what and how to simplify.

It’s this paradox in which we find ourselves. Stuck. Between complexity and the quest for simplicity. It’s the paradox that drains all the energy out of our group work and meetings. But equally it’s also this paradox that gravitates us again and again to group work.


Make complexity engaging… not simple

Because the quest for simplicity is reinforcing us in our ‘stuckness’, simplicity is not the answer. So what then, is the answer?

Engagement. That’s the answer.

People resist simplification on two different levels. First it removes the juicy details and the nuances that make complex things so interesting and secondly the very act of simplification is by itself a complex task, meaning increased confusion. So they disengage.

We need engagement because it makes complexity accessible. Where simplicity reduces complexity, engagement makes it accessible. And when complexity is made accessible, the group starts working on a common understanding, meaning ways forward start emerging. And that’s when meetings start to work.


Engagement is thinking the inclusive way

Creating engagement is not wizardry. It requires, however, for you to approach your group work and your meetings in a different way.


By starting to think ‘inclusion’. Engagement means every member or participant should get involved and participate. This is how complexity becomes accessible. As everyone has his or her understanding of the complexity surrounding them, you’ll make complexity engaging through laying bare the understanding of the complexity of each of the members. You make complexity accessible not by imposing your model of simplicity but by giving room to all the voices that make up that complexity.

For most of us this sounds counter-intuitive. It feels as if we create even more confusion than there already exists. But remember, the quest for simplicity creates more confusion and ‘stuckness’. So why not try it the opposite way.

You’ve got nothing to lose.


You want to give it a try?

There are different tools available. And I’ve already written about them at great length. Just have a look at a couple of resources:


Pssst… You just read my disclaimer

Why is this a disclaimer? Because my tagline and the short introduction movie (see underneath) might be viewed as a simplification.

Well… you’re damn right: they are.

But I never said that engagement and simplification are mutually exclusive. When simplification helps making complexity accessible then it’s a great way to engage. But as the pharmaceutical industry already understood long ago: simplification needs a disclaimer.

You just read the disclaimer for my site! Thank you.

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