A manager’s job is simple but in no way it is simplistic

Photo by Katie@!


From Wikipedia:

The representativeness heuristic is a rule of thumb wherein people judge the probability or frequency of a hypothesis by considering how much the hypothesis resembles available data … While often very useful in everyday life, it can also result in neglect of relevant base rates and other cognitive biases

Want a simple explanation? We believe that “like goes with like”. We think the big effects must have big causes and vice versa. According to some researchers, that is why it took so many years to understand that Malaria comes from mosquito bites. Could such a horrible disease come from such a small insect? Well, yes.

However, the representativeness heuristic is much more common than you think. If something looks simple, we assume it is simple. Yet, as one of my professors is fond of saying – “simple does not mean simplistic”.

Here is one of my favorite quotes from Ignore Everybody by Hugh MacLeod:

Being good at anything is like figure skating – the definition of being good at it is being able to make it look easy. But it is never easy. Ever. That’s what the stupidly wrong people conveniently forget.

Think about it. Look around you. My favorite example. Sports. You sit on your couch at home and watch the player miss an easy shot. “Come on!” you shout out. “What a loser! Such an easy shot”. But it’s not easy. Chances are you could not make that shot. It looks easy, because you have seen professional athletes, who probably have been practicing since they were 6 years old for thousands of hours, doing it again and again, make such a shot.  They make it look simple. And it is simple. Put the ball in the basket. Couldn’t be simpler than that. But it is not simplistic. Ever. This is the heart of the 10,000 hours idea so popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in his book, Outliers.

And why am I writing about this? Because so many of the issues I write about in this blog seem so simple. The concepts a great manager should understand and follow are not rocket science. Yet, the fact that they are simple does not mean they are simplistic. The so called “soft skills” are the hardest to master. We should not confuse like with like. To get to the simple, we need to pass through a lot of complexity.

I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity — Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.


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