February 27, 2020

4 min read

Finding the simpleness in complex things.
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TEDxMünchen Team - "Ideas worth spreading" - TEDxMünchen

Well, hello there! Glad to be back and join you with some inspiring thoughts and, of course, another excellent TED Talk out of the multi-diverse and seemingly never-ending TED universe.

Last time we talked about life’s third act and how to turn it into another exciting episode of your life with all its possibilities. But despite all these great prospects, it is a very complex topic that can be quite overwhelming for many of us. Like many other things in today’s highly complex world.

But what does complex even mean? And does complex equal complicated? And why the heck can’t it just be simple?

First, let’s take a look at the classical definition of both words:

The Oxford Dictionary defines complexity as “the state or quality of being intricate or complicated” and simplicity as “the quality or condition of being easy to understand or do”.

Although complexity and simplicity couldn’t be further apart in their meaning, whether you perceive something as complex or simple can totally change with your perspective. Even more, something can be both complex and simple at the same time.

But how, do you ask?

To illustrate this, let’s take a look at, for example, nature:

Much of the world is made from simple, easy-to-understand building blocks. Simple atoms make any object. Like us human beings. Highly complex systems created out of simple DNA with only four bases.

Or technology: The most intricate computer program is still a sequence of 1′s and 0′s.

It didn’t have to be this way. We could have had thousands of elements in the periodic table. DNA could have had millions of different bases. And we could have designed computers to store files with all numbers from 0-100. But that’s not what happened. “The best-designed, most elegant systems are simple and advanced. Simplicity gives them reliability, and a clever arrangement of parts gives them power.”(2)

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TED Talk by Eric Berlow
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In addition, maybe these two questions might help when thinking about how complexity and simplicity can coexist:

Is it easy to understand? What is it capable of doing?

Of course, “easy to understand” doesn’t always mean “easy to do”. We shouldn’t assume that a complicated device is automatically powerful and, vice versa, that a simple interface means only basic functionality. Again, what is complex may also be simple.

Speaking of complexity – financial business seems complex to a lot of people. And let’s be honest it’s not the right stuff for your kid’s goodnight story. Our friends from FWU, however, are not just experts in their field – surprisingly – but also put in a great amount of effort to make these complex topics accessible and simple for everyone. Check out some of their articles on the Forward You Blog, and we promise you might even have some fun while reading through those complex financial topics.

So, let’s sum this up: Our personal and business lives might be filled with complex systems and it might be tough to find underlying patterns and meaning in our chaotic world.

But we encourage you to not be scared, the next time you’re faced with seemingly overwhelming complexity. Take a deep breath, step back and try to find the simplicity behind the complex.

In addition to the questions above, maybe some tools like graphical visualization might be helpful for you in order to break down the complex and make it more tangible. And even beautiful.

Simply yours

TEDxMünchen team


(1) https://artplusmarketing.com/complexity-and-simplicity-3acc6796becb

(2) https://betterexplained.com/articles/combining-simplicity-and-complexity/

(3) https://www.ted.com/talks/eric_berlow_simplifying_complexity

(4) https://www.presentationzen.com/presentationzen/2009/07/what-is-simple-may-also-be-complex.html

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