The Most Important Skill to Handle Complexity

Deep understanding of complexity is needed now more than ever, and it doesn’t just show up in your head overnight.

Today’s world is complex and becoming more so. Such complexity feels inevitable, yet there’s a tinge of irony in a world like ours where much of the complexity is created through a desire to simplify. Amazon and the world of e-commerce illustrate this well. Because of their desire to get any product to any person in a day or two, a huge array of purchasing options have sprung up, enabling you to choose from hundreds of products, many of which have been created to simplify some other problem.

Today’s complexity largely comes from navigating a world of many solutions to simpler problems. Buying insurance? You can do it from your living room, but you have thirty different choices. Reading the news? It’s all in your pocket but you have hundreds of conflicting options, good luck!

Complexity and Your Wallet

complexity and your wallet

Similarly, the business world has become more complex as a way to deliver simpler solutions. Where a generalist would have sufficed in the past, highly specialized roles have become the rage. Many software engineers now specialize in particular languages and frameworks rather than learning new ones. Marketers are expected to know a whole set of tools and processes depending on the role.

But no role exemplifies this more than Data Science. Even ten years ago, the general idea with data was to hire smart people who knew some math to figure things out. Now, companies are looking for people with incredibly specific skill sets – it’s not uncommon to see job postings that, as an example, want someone who has used gradient-boosted decision trees to predict out-of-stocks. Haven’t done that before? Too bad, someone has.

Navigating Complexity: What it Means for You

navigating a maze - this is complex

But what does all this mean for anyone navigating such a world? It’s clear that the ability to understand and deconstruct such complexity – true mastery of a subject – is as valuable as ever. But deep understanding of any subject doesn’t happen by chance. Mastery requires persistence – the ability to stick with, grind through, have grit. There are many such terms all used to capture the same concept. Without a persistent pursuit of a subject, you have little chance of mastering it, let alone sticking with said subject as it continues to evolve.

Of course, persistence is hard to measure and depends on many different factors. Angela Duckworth attempted to quantify “grit” in her work on the subject and makes the case for its importance. But understanding how to develop and nurture such a skill is still deeply dependent upon one’s own situation. Indeed, it is safe to say that if there was a panacea for developing such a valuable skill, evolution would have found it by now.

What We’re Doing About It

statue representing grit and persistence

That brings us to WeAchieve. If you don’t know by now, WeAchieve is a brand new accountability engine designed to help you keep yourself focused your on long-term goals. Mastering anything is a long-term goal, and thus we are focused on figuring out how to aid that process. What we’ve built so far was done so to leverage several things that researchers agree aid in building persistence: developing a plan, setting achievable and quantifiable targets, and selectively sharing process-focused steps with select friends or family.

The current state of persistence can be understood by looking at what percent of people achieve their New Year resolutions. Most research measures this around 8%. To be sure, some part of this 92% failure rate is innately human – we can’t help but reach for the unobtainable. But we also firmly believe that the 9% success rate can be much higher. Why not 16%? Why not 32%? With 150 million Americans setting New Year resolutions each year, what would the world look like if 40 million more people were hitting the goals that matter most to them? We believe it is a much better world, and it’s the one we’re striving for.

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