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January 5th, 2021
Most solutions are a kind of growth added to an existing system. No system is perfect and by urge of progress we attempt to improve these systems by adding to them. This creates complexity which inevitably devolves into noise as our ability to understand becomes overwhelmed.
Simplifying a system is often very risky as it grows to become a ball of band-aides, each an attempt to improve but also an interdependent piece of added weight. Removing any one piece can and often spells out a cascade of malfunction within that system. This is present almost everywhere, from code for sprawling and complex apps to governments. The resulting monstrosities render themselves fragile.
What such failures highlight is the benefit of agility and flexibility. Cumbersome systems render these qualities unavailable because the interdependence of components is codependent as opposed to just additive. The codependence is embedded in the need to add another component because that component is being added as a fix, or a solution to some aspect of the system. But of course, with each added solution, the system becomes more and more complex, giving rise to unexpected problems, the causes of which are two abstruse to understand and therefore necessitate another patch, and another.
This type of growth may in fact be a hallmark of a core problem with the system which has been implemented to try and solve a particular problem. Systems are put in place to solve for problems that are recurrent so that issues that pop up are solved for with an efficient regularity. If the system grows through continued use, then it may be fair to guess that the system doesn’t actually solve for the original problem.
The simple solution is often just a new system, a simpler one which is more inline with the actual issue at hand to be dealt with.
The natural world has a pretty good way of selecting for good systems. The bad ones often just get eaten, they become food and fuel for better systems, whether that be an actual predator or the diverse array of micro organisms benefitting from an animal that has collapsed under it’s own weight after discovering a human-made Twinkies factory.
This fitness is also evident in the business world. Large incumbents which seem invincible can, in reality, be quite fragile to small underdogs because they lack the agility and flexibility of a lean organization. This perspective on simple solutions as simple systems which solve a problem also spell out a recipe for a good business idea. All innovation and much capital value can be defined as simply a better solution, and the better solution is almost always, simple.