When Simple Gets Complicated


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All I wanted to do was buy lightbulbs.

That should have been simple, right?

Everyone uses lightbulbs in their house.  They’re common, nothing particularly special. 

It was a lot harder than it looked.

The Great Light Bulb Hunt

I had too to three different stores to find them.  I was looking for 75 watts because I needed those for my kitchen since want to see what I’m using the knife on.  I wanted one of those flame bulbs for a dining room chandelier since those burn out like crazy.  Five lights, no waiting.

First was a department store that sold everything.  Should have had it.  They had a small selection of the really expensive bulbs—you know the ones that cost $15 for one bulb.  No basic 75 watts. 

Second store did have a very small selection of bulbs, again mostly the expensive one-to-pack bulbs.  The store brand of basic bulbs was waaaay expensive for four—almost $9.00.  The flame bulbs were two to a pack, $9.00.  Yikes.

The third store had a small selection of lightbulbs, bigger than the other two stores.  All the standard watts were reasonably priced and they had a good variety.  It was the grocery store.

Man Likes Complexity

Reading about simplicity and productivity, Writing Nerd discovered that man likes making things more complex. 

Even something that starts out simple and every day gets “fixed” to be “new and improved” and ends up making more work and more decision fatigue.  I hate buying bandages for the same reason.  Can’t a bandage just be a bandage?!!

Of course, where I live—Washington DC—is complexity on steroids.  Even the layers of complexity have layers.

Nothing can be simple.

In some cases, we just add the layers unnecessarily.

Like bandages.

Why so much complexity?

Companies want to sell more products, so they add more choices. 

So when you walk into the store to make what should be a grab and go trip, you have to stop and decide between anti-bacterial (Fear! Fear! Fear!  Kill all the germs!), the patterned bandage (the fashionista), or the invisible bandage (shh.  I don’t want anyone to know I cut my finger…says she who had to wear a finger sock).

And sometimes people want to put their mark on something because it makes them feel like they’re doing more important work. 

Complexity is also procrastination.  It’s work, it feels productive.  But while we’re busy adding more layers, we add more things to do.

Take writers (though this can handily be applied to business, government, managers).  We tend to come up with elaborate systems to do things. 

Like this writer who came up with an elaborate outline that was 14,000 words.  No, it’s not a typo.  It’s fourteen thousand words.  Somewhere in there, the actual simplicity of writing the book got lost—on a quest to make it easier.

And the more complex something is, the more decisions have to be made.  Decisions that cause unnecessary frustration.

Like standing in the bandage aisle trying to find a box of bandages.  Or a light bulb.

Sometimes “new and improved” isn’t. 

Additional Reading

How to Beat Decision Fatigue

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