Michael Lissack is the executive director of the Institute for the Study of Coherence and Emergence (ISCE), President of the American Society for Cybernetics (ASC), the ISCE Professor of Meaning in Organizations, Professor of Design and Innovation at Tongji University (Shanghai), a Visiting Fellow at the Hull University Business School, an Affiliate Member of the Center for Philosophy & History of Science at Boston University, and a serial entrepreneur. He was the first Walter J. Hickel Professor at Alaska Pacific University. Dr. Lissack founded both a non-profit research institute and a charity for artists, launched an international Ph.D. program in corporate anthropology, has written half dozen books, been a successful Wall Street banker, and a candidate for public office. He has taught at a number of academic institutions in the US and Europe, run ten international conferences on the topics of explanation, complexity, management, health care, entanglement, and ethics and founded a successful academic journal (E:CO). Worth Magazine recognized Dr. Lissack as one of "Wall Street's 25 Smartest Players" in 1999 and as one of the 100 Americans who have most influenced "how we think about money" in 2001. His most recent invention - an Internet research reference librarian replacement can be found at http://epi-search.com. Dr. Lissack’s smartphone apps dealing with anti-bullying, sexual assault, and sexual consent are being used throughout the United States. His most recent academic work can be found at http://lissack.com and http://remedy101.com.

Abstract

Recognizing the Dangers of Simplicity Addiction

We are seldom taught that simplification has a high risk of failure. In truth, it only works up to a point, after which all that lies ahead is failure. To examine the limits of simplicity is to look at what happens when our efforts to make things fit into a sound bite, label, or keyword go awry. When simplification works, it can indeed be very effective. But simplification does not always work—so more of it is not necessarily better. And when simplification fails, it fails miserably. This talk exposes the limitations of simplification as a design choice, explores the cognitive origins of why we often get led astray in making such a design choice, and explores how we might develop a set of practical heuristics to counter the seductiveness of simplicity itself. The goal is appropriateness and balance— what cybernetics calls requisite variety, and what many design practitioners call placing context in context. I conclude with a heuristic to guide the practitioner on what to do when their efforts at simplification are failing.

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