In elementary school, I remember a simple lesson we were taught about using the right tool for the right job. You know, using millimeters to measure tiny details of life, like seeds, using centimeters to measure small details of life, like flowers, using meters to measure big things of life, like trees, and using kilometers to measure really big things of life, like how long it is from where we are now to wherever we want to go on this planet.
And in the social innovation tips collection from our first mission, Amy Smith suggests:
Do the hard work needed to find a simple solution. As Leonardo da Vinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”—and it is the key to this type of design work.
When we are precisely as simple and as sophisticated as we need to be with our tools (including the most important tool of our thinking!) we become as efficient and effective as we possibly can be given the situation. Which is precisely why understanding the following set of levels of simplicity~complexity is so powerful, as it gives us a way to start at the most general approach to social problem solving or to move down into a more detailed approach of human problem solving, depending on what's most appropriate for the situation.
The top level is the simplest, most broad way of thinking about solutions, akin to, perhaps, a light year in measuring terms.
The second level down is the next simplest way of thinking, more like measuring the world in kilometers.
The third level down is the more architectural scale of solving problems, similar to measuring life in meters.
The fourth level of detail is where things get practical, where people's solutions are broken down into specific, but still basic, elements like so many ancient cultures speak of the powers of the Earth, Water, Air, and Fire, and this level is where we humans spend most of our time looking at life, essentially using the centimeter to measure the things we encounter in our daily explorations.
The fifth level is how we start to look for solutions when there're any kinds of sickness or serious deficiencies going on, and this is the level that doctors, biologists, engineers, and other specialists measure things in real detail, like the millimeter option of rulers.
And the levels can keep going, for even more detail, as more clarity of understanding becomes valuable for looking at how to best take care of
the world and all the individuals in it.
So, the next time you are looking to take care of the world, consider using the right tool for the job, based on what level of simplicity~complexity seems most appropriate for the problem. Is it simply more love, in general, that is needed to solve the problem? Or is it a more specific kind of love that's going to do it? Where do you think your thinking would be for the most simple solution?
This post is part of a collaborative series on Changing Mindset
, with the goal of helping people understand how to think more skillfully.