The Hidden Cost Of Simplicity


We used to think the earth was flat. We thought that the sun rotated around it. We used to believe that it was uneccessary for surgeons to wash their hands before they began operating – it was pointless, they were about to get covered in blood!

Our minds have progressed, our knowledge has expanded, our understanding has grown. And still the questions keep on coming; our minds are clearly built with a need to learn, to develop, to discover.

Yet as the world around us becomes more and more complex, we are also driving for simplicity, which is a good thing, especially as consumers. We want things to be simple, and straightforward, easy to interface and use. We want to pick up and use without the need of an instruction manual. We want service that is easy to access, simple to understand and that delivers it right.

There is a hidden cost to such simplicity. Human’s require a degree of complexity in their work for it to be engaging, and yet, as the world becomes increasingly complex we are finding new ways to outsource that complexity to tech solutions.

So the hidden cost of simplicity is that we are building a world that makes it easier for us as consumers, but more difficult for us as workers. Companies are doing all they can to ‘engage’ people in the work they do, but it’s an uphill struggle when the work itself is becoming less challenging and less engaging.

Of course, there are roles out there that do provide the mental stimulation worthy of a human mind, but not everyone gets to do those jobs. And where there is complexity in a job, a very smart human comes along to ‘design-out’ that complexity, to create a lean, standardised process with as few errors as possible.

That’s not a wholly bad thing, of course when such work makes the company more efficient and ultimately more profitable. But that profit comes with a cost, one which we haven’t fully evaluated yet. It’s hidden from sight. We don’t know what decades of workplace simplification will do to the human mind that yearns for more and more stimulation.

Will we begin to revert? Will minds start going backwards, believing that the earth is flat? That the sun revolves around us? Perhaps millions of people refusing to accept our impact on the Earth’s atmosphere and climate could be compared to those doctors who once thought washing their hands before surgery was pointless!

Maybe the real danger is that simple jobs may lead to simple minds, malleable, easily influenced and spooked by the latest unsubstantiated news headline.

If simplicity is driving simple minds in a complex world, we need to understand if that is a cost worth paying.

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