Complicated vs. Complex



You can't divide a pizza by the ingredients.


It’s easy to divide pizza into its major components — crust, sauce, cheese, toppings. That tells you, maybe, 40% of what you’re getting. But everyone knows a pepperoni thin crust from Domino's is different from the same thing from Papa Johns, and they have the same four basics. Now you’ve got to figure out what proportion of flour, water, sugar, salt, and flavorings in the crust, the type and consistency of tomatoes and the quantity and type of seasonings in the sauce (assuming it’s tomato-based, which is an assumption), the type, mixture, age, etc. of the cheese. And then there are toppings…


And that’s just Papa Johns and Domino's — we haven’t even got to real pizza.


Of course, there’s a process. Because I love process. That’s the process of making the dough, spreading the sauce, sprinkling the cheese, arranging the topics, and then the incredibly complex process of applying heat over time to create interactions with the yeast and sugars in the flour based on the formation of gluten in the mixing process, the reduction of water in the cheese, sauce, and topics, the denatured proteins combining with sugar created by heating meat… I could go on.


But you can understand the layers and how they combine to taste good, the well-selected seasoning in the sauce compliment the tang in the cheese, how the burned bubbles give the make the consistency deliciously inconsistent but also add a hint of darkness to the flavor. 


And then you can slice it and give it to your friends and make everyone happy, and drink it with a proper beer (Guinness). Because everything exists within a larger system, and we’d better understand that one, too.


Oh yeah, pizza boxes aren’t simple either. There’s a delicate balance between maintaining heat during the delivery time without creating excess humidity that makes the pizza soggy, and also the utility of transporting unfolded boxes and allowing easy recycling by the consumer…  Sorry. Back to leadership.


The point? Sometimes the most simple things are actually complex, and the number and breadth of decisions that have gone into creating something is much greater than we see at first. Understanding those decisions, the points where we can most quickly affect an outcome (creating good pizza, in this case) requires that we distinguish between complexity and complications. Complexity is the fundamental nature of the system, the cores that determine what outcomes are possible and what outcome will eventually happen.


Complications are the details that swirl around those cores and often hide the cores from our sight. When we can separate the two, we can understand; when we can’t, we make decisions about the wrong things and depend on chance to get the outcome we want.

When we don’t understand leadership, we end up without leadership.


The point, shorter? There are many delicious dining options, get a pizza.


I’m getting my keys now.

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