Are you a simplifier or a complexifier?

Management consultant Tom Peters has a lively rant — here — against “systems thinking,” planning and other pet peeves. But what I found most interesting was this two-by-two matrix for categorizing analyst/consultants:

Years ago, in my McKinsey days, one of my bosses was bemoaning the help we were getting from an “economic genius.” He said, “Tom, consider a matrix. One axis boils down to ‘simplifier’ vs ‘complexifier.’ The other is ‘smart’ and ‘dumb.’ Thus we are dealing with a 2X2 matrix. The analyst-from-heaven is the ‘smart simplifier.’ The analyst-from-hell is [the] ‘smart complexifier.’ He is, in fact, worse than the ‘dumb complexifier,’ who you can simply ignore, and the ‘dumb simplifier’ who might actually be of help.”

So, are you a simplifier or a complexifier?

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2 thoughts on “Are you a simplifier or a complexifier?

  1. Tom is always ranting about one thing or another. John Gall once said, “A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked.” With the metaphor of a hen and egg in mind, it seems then that the simplifier came before the complexifier. I’d say I’m a simplifier.

  2. On another note, I don’t easy to simplify a complex matter whether one is a simplifier or complexifier. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once noted that he would not give a fig for simplicity this side of complexity, but he would give his life for simplicity on the other side of complexity. The latter might be a complex concept to grasp but the former sure seems simpler as it deals with actualities.

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