Complex world? Keep it simple!

simple rules poster - thumbnail
you can download it below

It’s tricky, this being-human business, isn’t it?

Perhaps that’s why, when we go to work, we try to create a haven from complexity, breathing a sigh of relief in an environment where we know who’s in charge, and just how to do things.

The fact is, though, that this isn’t serving us well, in an age that moves at the speed of the internet. People are doing more all the time, aquiring more rules.. and we’re burning out at work, struggling with all of yesterday’s rules while waiting for sensible new instructions from those “in charge” (who are, by the way, equally overwhelmed).

As we say in the StoosNetwork:
“there has to be a better way”.

Last week a few of us spent some time talking about this better way as it relates to the Network itself, on our LinkedIn group. Being a network, rather than a heirarchy, how, for example, shall we communicate our experiences and results? How do we want to govern things like member conduct? If you like, you can putter around the group looking at threads like “How will you pass the baton?” and “How do we take Stoos to the next level?“. You’ll notice that our desire to find simplicity tends not to be easy :-). Yes, it’s complex.

One thing’s for sure: when things get chaotic, habit has us looking around for the traffic cop. But in a “complex adaptive system” like the StoosNetwork (or the world!), only a madman would try to regulate the detailed flow of our interactions!

Who do you suppose co-ordinates the feeding of the 9 million souls who wake up hungry every morning in New York City? Of course, no one person, group or authority does; but it gets done, again and again, in a mind-boggling dance of night shifts and morning shifts, transportation logistics, cultural preferences and the limited shelf-life of thousands of products. This is how real life works. Some of us think this is how work needs to work, too.

Dee Hock, the founder of Visa, who radically transformed that corporation in the ’90s and has since formed The Chaordic Commons to help others do it too, put it this way:

“Simple, clear purpose and principles
give rise to complex and intelligent behavior.

Complex rules and regulations give rise to
simple and stupid behavior.”

Today, network member Diana Larsen contributed something on Simple Rules in one of our discussions, and as usual, I couldn’t resist turning it into something useful. Well, to me at least! I made a poster from the Simple Rules I found on the Human System Dynamics website, one of Diana’s links.

If you like it too, you can download it here:

simple rules poster - thumbnail
Print and share: you'll find the download links just above

Life is complex, that’s just a fact. Let it be complex… and make things easier yourself: adopt some simple rules to navigate by!

Of course, navigation will be smoother once we all do similarly.

Perhaps that’s what the StoosNetwork is about :-)





(Still curious? You can read more about Simple Rules at . And Jurgen Appelo, one of the StoosNetwork instigators, wrote about Complex Adaptive Systems in laymen’s terms here).

Comments (2)

  1. Hi Deborah,

    Just to be clear, the simple rules you turned into a poster are those that guide the work of the Human Systems Dynamics Institute and not necessarily generalizable to other complex adaptive systems. For example, my company FutureWorks Consulting, while perhaps not as complex as IBM, still deals with a complex world and we have our own set of simple rules ( ), as do many other organizations and teams. In our Liftoff book, Ainsley Nies and I recommend that every project team consider uncovering/revising/developing its own set of simple rules.

    Best, Diana Larsen

    1. That’s a good point, thanks Diana!

      I have updated the poster, changing the text at the bottom to reflect this, see below. I do find the HSD list inspiring by itself, and applicable to many things I do… but yes, HSD folks also encourage everyone to develop their own. As we do with our software teams, right? :-)


      these are the simple rules of Human Systems Dynamics; more here:

      which simple rules make *your own complex system* work well? visit

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