Thursday, March 26, 2020

"The Simplicity Principle - Six Step Towards Clarity in a Complex World" - Julia Hobsbawm

"The Simplicity Principle: Six Steps Towards Clarity in a Complex World" explores simplicity in an increasingly complex digital age and challenges the assumption that all things that are complex have to stay that way. 

Written by Julia Hobsbawm, an entrepreneur and writer who often writes about the problems and solutions of adults in the machine age, has been described as "one of the most important public intellectuals in the U.K." and was awarded an OBE in The Queen's Birthday Honours for services to business. 

The word "intellectual" is an important marker here because, at its core, "The Simplicity Principle" is a book targeted more toward intellectuals than the general readership. While it's nearly always understandable, the simple truth is that Hobsbawm's style of language and organizational structure is unquestionably more appropriate for a business setting than it is for anything related to self-help, individual growth, or anything along these lines. 

The description of the book goes as follows - "Learn how to develop a clear and calm way to be more creative, gain greater focus and reclaim productivity." While the title of the book indicates a rather streamlined process, "The Simplicity Principle" simply doesn't live into its promise. Hobsbawm focuses much of the material in "The Simplicity Principle" on the concept of Hexagon Action - the hexagon being six-sided and "mathematically perfect." She then proceeds to draw out the six sides of simplicity and their "six fixes." So, each side of simplicity has "six fixes" - as near as I can tell, this gives us closer to 36 steps not including the seemingly endless variations she adds into the mix to further muddy the already unclear concepts. There's a core of simplicity within this all - there really is, but because Hobsbawm is an intellectual she takes great pains to explore each "axiom" or "fix" in a myriad of ways rather than actually modeling the notion of simplicity. It may be true in the U.K. where she is based, but in the U.S. it's most definitely true that the multiple layers of organizational structure wouldn't be considered simple and Hobsbawm's dogged insistence on further breaking things down and exploring them in geometry concepts only complicates matters. 

Having only recently finished reading "The Simplicity Principle," it's an honest truth that nearly all of it has vacated my brain and I'm referring back to the book in order to effectively present a review where I read the entire book, took notes, did a little side research, and actually did understand her points. I simply never integrated them. 

Hobsbawm utilizes tremendous research and resources, but has an unusual habit of reinforcing their information with "he is right" or "she is right." As she's utilizing these individuals as experts, it seems to be an odd language choice to reinforce they're correct which essentially puts the expertise back on her. Hobsbawm explores other concepts, as well, including the world of bees. The book's closing chapters, a recap and an exploration of six hexagonal thinkers, per the author, are at least engaging and a nice way to reinforce and actually simply organize the material. 

"The Simplicity Principle" will likely work best for those in the business world seeking to simplify and connect in a world that doesn't always encourage that. Business professionals and intellectuals will more closely identify with Hobsbawm's linguistic choices and organizational concepts and will appreciate the lack of extraneous fluff. While organizational structures can be quite effective and memory devices quite efficient, Hobsbawm's repeated use of "six" for nearly everything becomes so overly obvious it began to feel like more of a gimmick. 

"The Simplicity Principle: Six Step Towards Clarity in a Complex World" has productive thoughts and tools to offer for the simplifying business professional, however, I would have difficulty recommending it for any other audience. While I'm a devotee of simplicity, I found very little in the book helpful and can't help but feel as if the title of the book itself is deceptive regarding what to expect from Hobsbawm's material. 

Overly complex in language and structure, "The Simplicity Principle: Six Steps Towards Clarity in a Complex World" is, rather ironically, desperately in need of simplifying.

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