The notion of “complexity bias” seems to be around a lot in blogs, pinterest posts and Twitter, but I have not been able to find a lot of academic research into it. In fact, the only common definition seems to be this one: “Complexity bias is a logical fallacy that leads us to give undue credence to complex concepts.” It a ubiquitous definition, and could perhaps come from Farnham Street blog, but it probably doesn’t.
“Complexity bias” is such an engaging idea though because feels like it make sense. So while I have not found anything beyond blogs to back it up, I do think it is useful to me because it is something that I do in certain situations and contexts: I overthink things, I want everything I do to be amazing, well thought through, complete, wonderful and the best. But sometimes that stops me from just doing things quickly. Perfection is the enemy of good.
I made the little poster below in Adobe Spark, and I often look at it when I indulge myself again in the fog of complexity thinking. It was inspired the article: “The 1 Question That Helps Me Beat My Procrastination” , by Haley Goldberg. The one question you ask yourself is: “What would this look like if it were simple/fun/easy?”
Here are some more quotes to live by:
- “Simplicity is a great virtue but it requires hard work to achieve it and education to appreciate it. And to make matters worse: complexity sells better.” Edsger Wybe Dijkstra
- “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage — to move in the opposite direction.” Ernst F. Schumacher
- And of course there is good old KISS: keep it simple, stupid. Apparently this came out of the US navy in the 1960.
- I also like this cartoon Anaïs Pirlot-Mares, text written by Becky Kane from blog.doist.com.
Some more reading about the topic on Farnam street blogs:
- Complexity Bias: Why We Prefer Complicated to Simple
- How to Use Occam’s Razor Without Getting Cut
- The Science of Analysis Paralysis & Why It Kills Your Productivity