Strive for simplicity over complexity.

In most aspects of life, people seem to assume the higher you get, the more complex your life has to become. Whether that’s starting a family, running a business or accepting a promotion with more responsibilities.

The problem with this thought process is that by not challenging against the need for more complexity, you are reducing your ability to have the necessary clarity and focus on the things that actually matter the most. There’s a big difference between something that is inherently complex (like string theory) and something unnecessarily complex (like laws and regulations).

Take running a company: a lot of responsibility comes with this role. You might be reporting into multiple investors, managing several teams and be under commitments with many people across your organisation. You’ll also be responsible for the strategic direction of the company.

When faced with these kind of challenges, people often become confused about their priorities; often caused by personal pressure, illogical thinking and from distractions by those around them. The most important lesson anyone can learn is to listen to yourself and to follow your instinct. Don’t allow the thought process of others take place of yours.

An interesting problem that faces software engineers in particular is the balance between getting a product to market (the economic demand) and the desire to maintain technical quality (the intellectual demand). Agile methodology teaches us a way to balance both priorities by encouraging discussion between the stakeholders to identify the minimum viable feature set possible within the provided timescales.

This process allows teams to dissect the real requirements of a project that might have many moving parts; and by having all stakeholders involved in that process, each side has the opportunity to see and understand the challenges facing other colleagues across the organisation. By simplifying the entire process, it encourages teams to break up requirements into manageable chunks and to discourage decision-makers from making decisions without being fully aware of the consequences.

The truth is, complexity is in the eyes of the beholder. By identifying ways to break down and simplify challenges, we are far more capable at solving them. This applies to software developers in the same way as it applies to senior managers. You should always challenge the need for complexity and forever strive for the elegance of simplicity.

When work gets tough, work smarter – not harder.