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Why do people in work tend to overcomplicate stuff?

July 10, 2018


I don't know about you but I am consistently bamboozled by the lengths that people go to in work to make something sound impressive.


For example I recently stood in front of a senior leadership team of a well respected pharmaceutical trials outfit and asked them to 'tell me what they do' ? The table of 8 people erupted into a gaggle of verbiage and jargon filled explanations that I could broadly follow but it was a struggle.  After 3 or 4 minutes I stopped them and reflected my impression, i.e. this seems very complex and I don't really feel like I 'get it'.  I then suggested they simplify and imagine they just met a mate in a coffee shop or bar and they were explaining what their company did?  


The table laughed and you could see them relax and easily net down what it was that the company does in a way that anyone could understand.  We then continued and used this moment of clarity to set the context for defining their ideal target operational model.


This is a recent example however in my experience this is a common trait that ensures that companies exist in fog of unnecessary complexity which people get used to operating in.  The neutrality of an outsider stepping in who is prepared to admit that they don't get it is often the trigger to self reflect and have that 'moment of clarity'.  As someone who often has to cut through the fog and get to the nub of the conundrum I am thankful for this trait, it provides a lucrative and interesting living.  As a business professional I am staggered that companies allow themselves to operate in this way and perpetuate the illusion of necessary business complexity.


In a nutshell any business can gain absolute clarity by stepping back once in a while and thinking like an external.  What do we do? [the coffee / pub question] What to we aspire to do? [alternative pub question 'forward looking'].  Once you are clear about these things in a simple form the rest of any conundrum should fall into place as if it doesn't add to this why would we be doing it? 

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