Let’s start this by saying that if you are truly complicated, or at least if you think you are, it means that you might generate a lot of problems but war is something that you don’t do. So, it’s not that bad!
Have you ever heard someone that keeps saying things at the work like, “Stop complicating things!”, “Solutions, I need solutions not problems!” or “How did you manage to make this even more complicated then it was!”?
Being a complicated person, or encountering them, is more normal then you think and it’s not always a bad thing. It can be mostly attributed to our, culture, workplace, or environment. It can be a sign of intelligence and it could even avoid some of those hasty and heavy decisions that occur all too frequently – such as choosing to go to war!
Pedro: When I was young, I heard an expression saying, “if we were ruled by women instead of men, we might have confusion everywhere, but at least we wouldn’t have any wars in the world“. This statement is quite a danger to say it nowadays since we have an increased understanding of genders and expanded scope of gender roles in most of the global societies, so, it wouldn’t be so well understood nowadays. Nevertheless, the point is that at the time we normally used the pre-concept that women were always able to take better care of problems. The stereotype was that they were better at compromising, when men just wanted to be bullies and go to war at all time.
In my case, I am in fact not female the last time I checked. I don’t like to go to war either. I rather prefer compromise and this binds with Josh as a proof of my way of thinking to find partners, to find friends, and to find goals that can be achieved faster by compromising and sharing. However, I considerer myself personally a complicated person from the start. And yes, I heard all my life that I am always complicating stuff. The funniest part is that when they say that, normally I believe I am actually solving and simplifying stuff. It was a mess before I got there… Josh, you need to take over this now…
Josh: I think I am a complicated person. I have gotten myself into tasks that would have, should have, been easy. Somehow they just almost magically seemed to become the most difficult and complicated thing imaginable. There are probably multiple reasons for this, I can think of at least a dozen…. and there I go complicating things when the answer is really quite simple.
We overthink things. There, I did it. I simplified something.
Now to make it complicated again. It isn’t as simple as just overthinking things. There are reasons why we overthink things, and certain things we do overthink. We wouldn’t overthink it if there wasn’t something underlying that caused us to actually care enough to overthink. We would worry about war and making that decision to go to war. They invaded us, we should fight back…. but what if we make it worse and it impacts (insert what we care about here).
Our motivations are what drive us. When we care, we worry, and when we worry we want to make sure we have everything set up to perfection to reach our desired outcome. Even if it means making it more complicated than it needs to be, we know it will be better for it in the end. Even if we say we don’t care, we care about something. Saying we don’t care is usually more of a sign that we don’t believe we have control enough to fix the things we see wrong (Or we don’t actually care and aren’t overthinking it either).
As a side note: I spent five minutes trying to decide if “overthink” should be “over think”, “overthink” or “over-think.” I googled it. I care about the perception that I at least have some basic understanding of spelling and grammar. Admitting that I googled it will probably cause me some grief later on.
Pedro: So, if you care, you are more motivated, you become more protective and complicated! so that is also meaningful for company commitment. This should be valued. The process of simplification is only possible if you complicate. It’s not possible to simplify what is already simple. Simple things are not necessarily better, but simple things that were well simplified are normally a great work!
As it was mentioned in the beginning, “complicating” is an index for intelligent, but also sensitivity. So, Josh has the need to complicate on personal or work issues that seem simple. Are they simple? maybe not, you don’t know, maybe! Check the Iceberg effect, or where there is smoke there can be also fire; we can either care or forget what is under the water or let it burn thinking it’s only smoke. This point is kind of funny because we see thousand of posts on LinkedIn and other social websites there is observations like management knows only 4-5% of what is going on in the company. Well, most of the managers want solutions and not problems, so they get what they expect. I have seen many “cool” employees come up with quick answers for their managers that actually had no support technically and later damaged the company a lot. At the time, the “cool” guy would be considerer the problem-solver… Yes, insane, but it actually happens more than we would expect.
Josh: I wrote a whole post on the “I want solutions, not problems” issue a few years ago (https://agile-mercurial.com/2018/08/20/i-dont-want-problems-i-want-solutions-things-managers-say-that-destroy-a-culture-of-teamwork/). I have always taken it as a sign of a bad manager. We are a team. If you really want to limit the entire intellectual capacity of the team to one person making decisions without consulting the team, then why are we a team? Yet it continues. You consult other people to help make better decisions and its seen as weakness, like you aren’t a good employee or you are bad at your job.
The fact is, someone who may over-complicate things, can be very good at spotting problems. That doesn’t always mean they can solve them nor does it mean they should be the ones solving them. Making decisions on how to solve a problem, especially a potentially complex problem, is better done with teamwork. It may also be good to determine how serious the problem is. Over-complicators sometimes think problems are more severe than they actually are.
This subject is not that difficult to understand, but it is more complex than it may seem. If the company is small, it’s necessary to choose precisely the right people needed for the team. You may need a mix of those people that overcomplicate things thrown in with those that prefer to keep it simple. In this way they can balance each other out, with the simplifier keeping the complicator in check, and the complicator always watching out for new issues to arise and bringing them to the team’s attention. This can create the building blocks of a great team of people that is exceptionally agile and well prepared to handle any task thrown at them.
It becomes more difficult in larger companies and teams to be able to do this, but not impossible. We have to start with avoiding certain slogans that seek to divide the team by placing all decisions for a problem on a single individual. No one person knows everything, nor do they always make the best decisions on their own. This is just as problematic with a simplifier who may not see a problem or just ignore it completely because it seems small.
Title image from https://www.pexels.com/@startup-stock-photos
Thinking image from https://www.pexels.com/@brett-sayles