Archive for June, 2006

using metaphors, models and short-cuts to deal with complexity

To deal with the complexities of life and projects we have to work in short hand. We develop metaphors and conceptual models as short-cuts for more detail and complexity. To communicate effectively within a group of people, you have to agree a common language and a reference of understanding.

Even when working with the same group of people over time there can be issues of mis-communication and mis-expectation caused by use of short-cuts. On my current project, we challenge the use of secret language when it happens – to reveal short-cuts and try to create more common language.

2 interesting stories from Paul’s Tips;

Use of jargon to fool smart people

Why we have to rely on short-cuts to understand complexity.


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do one thing at a time to get things done

Time slicing or task switching destroy your basic productivity. Standard office set ups conspire to reduce your productivity. Multi-tasking environments and hot swapping applications encourage distraction.

It requires effort to do it, but focusing on one thing until it is done is more productive than mentally juggling.

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the influence of clothes

The way you look changes people’s perception of you… this is very well known and established. Dress to impress. Don’t judge a book by its cover.

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use clear metaphors to focus on the simple elegant core of something

At a recent seminar on Agile Project Management, someone said that successful people were the people who had the best metaphors for things. This rang true and is worth thinking about how you communicate concepts and ideas effectively to people.

Edwards De Bono says in his book Simplicity that “an expert is someone who has succeeded in making decisions and judgements simpler through knowing what to pay attention to and what to ignore.” Rather than try to communicate everything, or try to create a complex metaphor that encompasses all facets of a concept, stay focused on the heart of the matter and keep it simple.

Simplicity – is a book where the left page is in large print and focuses on summaries, to make reading it simpler and quicker. The right side is in normal print and written as you’d expect it would be – in paragraphs. I have not read the right side of the book to compare the amount of learning and knowledge I collected from reading this book, but expect that an 80-20 rule would apply. For the small amount of time I invested, I have taken the larger share of the knowledge away.

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