The Complexity Crisis — Why Keeping it Simple is Not Stupid

The Complexity Crisis

Goldilocks had it easy.  She only had three of everything to choose from.  Her decisions were pretty straightforward.  Things were either too big or too small; too hot or too cold.  Then, in fairly short order, she found something that was “just right.”

If only the real world were this easy.  Product proliferation, the long tail, and flat worlds have become an obsession with most businesses.  And, as a result, complexity has run amok among businesses, both big and small.

John Mariotti, former president of Rubbermaid Office Products and Huffy Bicycles,  lends perspective and clarity to complexity in his new book The Complexity Crisis.  Why too many products, markets and customers are crippling your company and what to do about it.

The book is divided into three primary sections:

  • The Problem, which defines complexity.
  • Examples which gives concrete examples of complexity in a variety of areas and finally,
  • Solutions, where Mariotti outlines some pragmatic ways of dealing with complexity and seeing beyond the muck into profitability.

Here is an excerpt that summarizes some of the details found in the book:


“Businesses must compete in more complex global markets than ever before.  Most companies are seeking double-digit growth in markets growing in single digit rates — or not at all.   This quest for growth has led to runaway complexity caused by the proliferation of products, customers, markets,  suppliers, services, locations, and more.  All of these add costs, which go untracked by even the best accounting systems.  Complexity also fragments management focus, wastes time and money, and ultimately reduces shareholder value.  The problems grow, but they remain under the radar of management attention.  Complexity is arguable, the most insidious, hidden profit drain in today’s business world.”

A few more lessons from the book include:

  • Look at your P & L and Balance Sheet.  John outlines exactly where to find those pesky costs that proliferate complexity and suck your profitability dry.
  • Manage globalization and technology – or the complexity will overtake you before you know it.
  • Unmeasured = Unmanaged.  The Complexity Crisis gives lots of tips on how to measure what counts.

This is not an academic book.  It’s pragmatic. Many of the strategies for battling complexity come straight out of real life experiences which include both success and failure.  Reading and acting on what the book says will not only simplify your business and life — but it might save you a lot of time and money in the process — time and money you could devote to innovation.

This book is an easy and powerful read for any business person intent on simplifying their business life and increasing their profitability in the process.

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Ivana Taylor About the Author: Ivana Taylor has spent over 20 years helping industrial organizations and small business owners get and keep their ideal customers. Her company is Third Force and she writes a blog called Strategy Stew.  She is co-author of the book “Excel for Marketing Managers.”

Ivana Taylor Ivana Taylor is the Book Editor for Small Business Trends. She is responsible for directing the site’s book review program and manages the team of professional book reviewers. She also spearheads the annual Small Business Book Awards. Ivana publishes DIYMarketers, where she shares daily do-it-yourself marketing tips, and is co-author of "Excel for Marketing Managers."