Complicated Problems Rarely Require Magical Explanations

from Seth’s Blog

One clue that someone doesn’t understand a problem is that they need a large number of variables and factors to explain it.

On the other hand, turning a complex situation into something overly simple is an even more common way of demonstrating ignorance of how the system works.

What we’re looking for isn’t the number of countable variables. It’s the clarity of thought. The coherence of the explanation. The ability to have that explanation hold water even if small inputs change. The explanation might be long, but it makes sense.

More here.

4 Responses to Complicated Problems Rarely Require Magical Explanations

  1. Nicholas Thomas April 28, 2017 at 5:57 pm #

    As always Seth’s explanations of nuisances issues are clear, concise, and thought provoking. In this particular article, it is interesting to see how Seth uses his own advice to convey a problem. Seth does not use any “fluff” words to explain that people who do not understand a topic either try to complicate the problem or simplify the problem more than it really is. A problem is not more complicated or simple than it already it is, so to complicate it or simplify is to change the problem and message. With this said, Seth tackles problem solving skills of people, and the act of conveying a problem and solution.
    From my own experience, the hardest part of a problem is setting aside the time to understand the issue. Obviously there are different degrees of difficulties of problems ranging from simple to complex; however, if one does not take the time to understand the problem and think about it than the most simply of issues can be complex. Its easy to take a glance at a problem and say “I don’t get it.” It takes disciple and patients to look at a problem for what it fully is. Looking at a problem for what it is, in my opinion, is a huge challenge for some people because they either give the problem more or less credit than it deserves. To be frank, when people make problems seem more simple or complex than the problems really are they make themselves appear ignorant, Many people use “fancy” words to make themselves look knowledgeable and fill in the gaps of the issue they do not fully understand; and as a result, make themselves look foolish. In fact, people who over simplify or complicate problems make the issue even more difficult for others to understand because it adds a level of ignorance. For example, Trump has tried to solve immigration, a multi-faceted problem, by building a wall. A wall, is a policy the common man can understand; Trump has over simplified the issue of illegal immigration. Moreover, Trump’s “magical explanation” for the immigration issue is Obama and the Obama administration. If people took the time to educate themselves and not allow others, who also do not understand issues, they could develop an understanding of certain issues. Time has to be invested to solve issues.
    Once one understands a problem, he or she must be able to convey the problem and a solution to said problem. When conveying a problem and a solution brevity is a virtue, but clarity is mandatory. If one is able to strip away the “fluff” of a problem without changing the material, he or she has an understanding the issue, is able to grow and adapt. The point of communicating a problem is to convey a message, not to boost one’s ego. Think this idea echoes the final lines of Seth’s article as in people are so concerned with their ego they are afraid to admit to fail or admit that they do not understand an issue. Humans are complex creatures and are capable of a lot of extraordinary acts; however, people must not be afraid to apply themselves, to fail, and learn. People cling to “simple systems” because such systems make people feel secure, but they do not grow as a result. Learning in the classroom setting is a simple system, and applying what one learns to problems not purposed in the classroom is a complex simple. Complex systems allow people to grow individually, communicate with others, and adapt as a society.

  2. Isaiah Allen April 28, 2017 at 8:58 pm #

    When most people hear the word “simple”, they normally attribute the word to something good. Anything that is deemed as simple, can generally be used to our advantage, but perhaps we should rethink that. When we are explaining ourselves, it is always important to be precise and clear because it shows that we are not lazy. In his article, Seth Godin explains why our clarity is not based off of quantity, but quality. In order for us to clearly express our thoughts we must make sure that our message has value. The length of the message means nothing if the receiver cannot decipher what we are trying to say. Long and thought out explanations aren’t “sexy” in today’s culture, but they still hold true value. It is more important to make sure that your point gets across, than to focus on how long it takes to explain yourself.
    Giving someone the “run around” when you’re explaining yourself shows that your either not sure what you are talking about, or do not care about it. Dedicating time to getting our point across shows that we are respectful and have a firm grasp about what we are talking about. I think that technology has had somewhat of a negative impact on how clear we are when we are communicating with others. A lot of us have gotten used to sending short messages to each other via some kind of device, and it has bled into our language without us even knowing it. We have gotten so used to our technology that nowadays some people may not feel like fully explaining themselves is necessary. That can lead to confusion, or the misinterpretation of a message. A long well thought out explanation provides the listener with enough information to understand the message, and formulate their own thoughts. In today’s fast moving economy, patience seems like something most people lack. However, in order to get our message across, sometimes we have to take our time and make sure that we are being precise. Time is not something that we can get back, therefore when we offer it up to people it shows that we are serious about what we are doing. I thought the title Seth used was interesting because usually we expect complicated problems to have complicated solutions. Even the most difficult conflicts can be resolved in a timely fashion while still remaining clear. By trying to over complicate our thoughts, we are just coming off as uneducated and ill prepared. In the past, I have been told that it is better to admit that I am unclear about something rather than to just babble on about it. Coming up with simple explanations show that we are taking the easy way out, just for the sake of having to explain ourselves. I think a lot of students my age believe that long explanations are a way off “showing off” your knowledge, but there is nothing wrong with that. All in all, it is important to make sure that your point gets across, even if you have to use up a little of someone else’s time.

  3. Nicolas F Carchio April 29, 2017 at 7:32 pm #

    Many people can sympathize with the sob story of a person who works hard but can never make it to the next level, solve the problem, push themselves higher or gain enough confidence to make something of themselves. In reality, this argument is futile. There is no argument for failure or lack of trying. There are many people who will simply think that their life will be stagnant forever, will never attempt to reach for higher goals, attempt to discover their true aspirations, find someone to spend their life with, quit something because it is simply too challenging or even abandon their dreams all at once. There is a societal stigma that good things will come to a select few people, so the chances of it coming to someone like you is simply minuscule. This negative and uneducated rhetoric is the exact reason why people are not confident in themselves, their own abilities, and their lives as a whole. People will always continue to play the victim, insist that they have done their best to change their situation or complain because it is not going their way, while knowing that they have done nothing of the sort to contribute to even a glimpse of success. These people need to wake up, have confidence and see that the world is unrelenting, so change or be overwhelmed.

    In Seth’s blog post regarding complicated problems, he mentions the topic of a problem that seems too challenging to overcome. This problem is more often than not followed by a response from people that leads them to discourage their selves or simply not attempt to find a solution to their problems. Currently, we live in an age where people believe that they are entitled to things such as a strong paying job or high salary, a family, someone to love and even a home. In reality, these things will NEVER be granted to anyone. They must be earned. It is necessary that people stop playing the victim and start attempting to become the victor. Society needs to end the notion of entitlement and give people the hope and confidence to do well in all that they do. There needs to be help for people in fields like education and health care, yet at this point nothing comes without a price, which is why people need to work their hardest to succeed in a relentless world.

    The modern day society’s attitudes have failed people, but it is the citizens’ duty to understand that they are entitled to nothing while they live on earth, and that the only things that they will be able to gain is through hard work. In an unforgiving world, people need to stop living in mediocrity and start living for the present, while working towards the future. People need to understand that nothing will come easy in life, but the most impossible problems cannot be solved in one step, they take time, effort and determination. It is essential that the future generations are taught to have confidence in themselves so that they can become productive, strong, resilient and thought provoking members of society.

  4. Andre Bakhos September 15, 2017 at 2:48 pm #

    Imagine you are helping to set up for a child’s birthday party, and are in charge of blowing up balloons. You grab one from the bag and stretch it out a little bit, put it to your mouth, and blow, filling it with air. As you are about to tie it off, you realize that it is too small, and continue filling it. Without warning, a loud bang ensues as the balloon pops from being filled too much. You then must divert your attention from the other balloons to pick up all the pieces of the exploded balloon. Blowing less air into the balloons is a solution to them popping, but what happens if you underestimate, and blow too little air into the balloons? In this case, the balloons will be tiny, and have a short life span, not lasting the length of the party.
    Just like the balloon example, people tend to over-inflate, or under-inflate their problems, thinking they should be bigger or smaller than they actually need to be. People add more and more to their issue, and when they add too much, it blows up in their face, forcing them to go around and pick up all the pieces. When they add too little, and underestimate the problem, it does not get solved in full, and their solutions are useless.
    In order to prevent the overestimating or underestimating of problems, the first thing someone must do is step back and assess the situation. How serious is it? Who and what was damaged? Is this a problem that needs to be solved now, or can it wait until later? Once these questions are settled, an approach can be decided upon in order to solve the issue itself.
    If after the problem is assessed, it is concluded that the issue is complicated, the first thing that must be done is to stop adding to the problem. Adding to the problem can take the forms of arguing with others, blaming, or acting in a manner that impedes a resolution. All of these additions put pressure on the recovery, and pressure causes people to make mistakes. If these factors are removed and instead everyone is only focused on the issue, some of the complexity will be negated. However, just because some of the complexity is removed, does not mean that the issue should be underestimated. Underestimating the issue comes in the form of over-simplifying the problem when solving, which just shows ignorance to the situation at hand. De-escalating the problem may cause it to sound better when explaining it to someone, but it actually inhibits the resolution. This is because simplifying a complicated issue, and not recognizing its severity, merely gives the illusion of an issue with negated complexity. The problem is still multifaceted, but it is now incorrectly seen as simple.
    The next scenario that can occur after an assessment of the problem is that it is a simple one. Usually, a simple problem requires an equally simple solution. However, it is often found that people overthink trivial occurrences, and do too much to solve them, further complicating the problem. Overthinking and further complicating a simple problem is just as ignorant as oversimplifying one. When this occurs, the level of the problem is raised, as the solution has been over-complicated, and in turn further increased the severity of the issue at hand.
    When faced with problems, it is important to determine the degree of complexity, and adjust the solution to that level. If a solution is chosen that does not match the problem level, then the problem will not be solved to the fullness it requires. This is the key to excelling at problem solving, and will help you limit the number of issues you can not solve.

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