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Simplicity Shouldn’t Make Us Simpletons

We, the jury, find the defendant, Jane Doe, to be "guilty" of the charge of first degree murder. 

This is a common statement in courtrooms after a gruelling trial. It is the conclusion of the matter; the bottomline. After all the days or weeks of trial starting with prosecution, to witnesses, to cross examination and the jury’s moment of deliberation, the court awaits the conclusion. Stakeholders hope the the jury does justice on the evidence presented to them about the case. It is a moment of high expectation both for defendant and the plaintiff.
 
I am not a legal practitioner but I have learnt a thing or two from one who is, right in my home. Hearing the cycle of trial I can’t help but draw a parallel with the culture involved applying jurisprudence through an emotive process with the culture involved in application of frameworks or approaches in doing transformation.  
 
Referring to the example above, let’s assume the jury disregards context (cross examination, evidence and witness accouts) and instead opt to use what they know based on their experience to make a ruling on such an emotive matter. How many cases would be mishandled by this gross neglect of context?  
 
This is true of culture in an enteprise context. The label above has given partial text. At a glance you may assume you know what it implies. That assumption is based on your mental interpretation which uses your previous context of your understanding of what that partial text is likely to mean. Some who are reading this post already are impatient with long and windy text. If you are, scroll down to see what the text actually means. If you just read the text “LUMBING TO CONFUSIONS” before reading the entiry of this post, you are the right audience.
 
We are in a fast moving world. Everything changes so fast. This has conditioned us to adapt to changing circumstances by increasing our speed to learn and grow. A few years back, the cycle of transition from high school to university was no less than two years. This has changed to a few months. Degree programs take lesser time to conclude that the past due to introduction of efficient means to manage transitions from one year to another. Technology platforms equally evolve with such speed.  Brett King in his book, “Bank 3.0” says this of the rate of technology adoption over the last 100 years; It took 68 years to adopt an aeroplane compared to 2 years adoption of facebook.  
 
What has speed brought with it? Impatience. Traffic jams appear to be more irrant today than they were 10 years ago. The ability to transact using self-service channels for bill payment, banking, license renewals, filing of tax returns etc has created in us a sense of impatience with perceived snail pace in service delivery. Having tasted of better ways of service experience, customers are now co-innovating with service providers. They are being involved in giving ideas about how to improve services. This was unheard of in the years past. Research and development was a closed-door affair with some nerds working on some “secret weapon” to outwit competition.   
 
You may ask, “okay where is this heading?”. Stay with me awhile. I understand your patience is starting to wane. Twitter has given us 140 characters to say something that ordinarily we got in a two hour conference or 100 pager book. We have become attracted to summaries and averse to details. Being wordy (like some may think here) is considered not a good thing. It is boring long text. Give us the summary, they say. What is it you are saying, they quip. The context of patient has been disrupted by a fast changing environment that makes us think we don’t need the details but the “big picture”.
 
The truth is, we need both. There is a fallacy that simplicity is in few words or summaries and that complexity is in many words or details. This is a shallow conclusion. Whereas we are impatient with details, the truth is we all have contexts. When our brain receives a statement like “cloud computing saved me money”  that statement sparks wild interpretations and application of our context on those terms. Some are likely to interpret it to mean that using computing and software resources on a lease or rental basis has signficant impact capital and operational expenditure. That is one view. But assuming the person who tweeted this was operating on a context where they were travelling and decided to take stock of their expenditure while in transit and in the process gained some signficant insight into how htey can save money. This is quite different from what the retweeters formed a judgement on the original intent of the tweet. The may have missed the moment to see the message, ii imbingc tq gqncji isiqns.
 
According to POET(TM) we are warned to not jump into conclusions even if those conclusions seem obvious. The “seeing of the obvious” is based on our context, remember Context Is King(TM). Our denial of detail and acceptance of brevity doesnt mean we dont use detail it just means the detail shifts to what we know. The detail is based on our own perceptions (context). So in truth, our impatience is not necessarily on the detail that is presented to us, but on the fact that we are unwilling to accomodate new insights that change our context to appreciate the “thing” or “idea” that is being shared across. That is why we have volunteers who fill in statements of others as they speak. We think we know what they are saying and therefore we want to quickly exit them to the next point.
 
If judges acted this, they would miss crucial information that would give them new perspectives in making sound judgement. Since judgement is based on context, the jury chooses to subject themselves to a very lengthy trial process which rebuilds their context and helps them use every possible information to build a new context for them to make a decision. We cannot chase brevity when that brevity compromises our ability to make sound judgement. This makes us simpletons. We must have the patience of the jury to not get sucked in the emotion of a trail but pick vital information from the details to enable us make sound judgements. We must have the skill to dig through detail and pick what connects with the summary and therefore help us be more accurate in our decisions. Did you see the full meaning of the partial text on the picture? Read again.   
 
LUMBING TO CONFUSIONS.
 
About the Author

Peter Muya, is an award enterprise transformation practitioner, possessing 15 years experience conducting mid and large-scale transformation projects in the telecommunications, financial services and public sector industries. He is the co-founder and a managing partner of PTI Consulting, a pan-African consulting practice providing ICT related business advisory services
 
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