The Tyranny of "and"

23.11.23 01:30 PM By Matt Koopmans

Why is implementing a suite of business applications so difficult? 

OK - you got me - it is a trick question. It isn't. But what has proven to be difficult - nearly impossible - is for businesses, business owners and leadership, to make a decision. You cannot look in two directions at once, and focus. 


The key ability in leadership is the ability to make a decision. To decide means to "cut off" (dekaedere - Latin) - strike off the list what you are going to do. Strategy is 10% what you are going to do, and 90% what you are NOT going to do. 

And this is exactly the issue - it is difficult to cut off - someone is always going to be (mildly) upset. It may be a cliche, but it is nonetheless true - you cannot please everybody, if you try you end up pleasing nobody.

Simple Complex Systems

The master-watchmakers know this. Take a "simple" mechanical watch - with two hands, one for the hours, one for the minutes. Now add a seconds hand. And a date. And a weekday. Make the date a "perpetual calendar". Moon-phase? Chronometer? Keep adding things that need to fit in a relative small package of a wristwatch... all mechanical of course. Still wonder why such masterpieces are fetching six figure sums at auctions? 

In addition - the relatively simple task of telling the time got a lot more complicated.

It is important to understand the difference between "Complicated" and "Complex". Complicated means that there are many options and many features. It requires training in order to operate. A complex system can be complicated, but does not have to be. Complex means that there are many moving components and when a component "breaks" (i.e. operates outside of the norm), the cascading errors are difficult to impossible to predict. A complicated watch is not necessarily complex - when a gear slips, it is predicted where the error is going to be. A complex system does not have to be complicated. 

A great example of a Simple Complex System is the globalist vision of our global supply chains - we have seen that break down in the last few years. And not just a little bit - but a cascading set of subsequent failures that were unpredictable consequences. Remember the Evergreen stuck in the Suez? The system is "Simple" as there are not too many pathways to choose from, and Complex, due to the unpredictable nature of cascading failures.  

No is the antidote

There are no solutions, only trade-offs. Even if you want it all (the tyranny of "and"), your trade-off is in the form of complexity. You have to choose, one way or another - choose wisely.

In case of the tyranny of "and" - you have the option to choose with data, with facts, and with logic. In particular when it pertains business applications, it is a matter of logic. Computers and computer systems by nature are stupid - they follow a set of instructions (yes, this includes AI systems that runs many parallel tracks to come to the most likely answer), they do not poses intuition, foresight, or actual human insight. Stop expecting computers and their applications to think with you. Less is more - and choose your trade-offs. Some exceptions should remain exceptions.

Matt Koopmans