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Inherent Simplicity preview

Eli Goldratt is in the process of writing another book, this one entitled Inherent Simplicity [Update: the book was renamed at publication to The Choice.] Rather than a fiction, it is a monograph set up as a (fictional) discussion between Goldratt and his daughter, Efrat.  I received a galley proof on the arrangement that I would tell people about it and offer to pass the same offer to more people.  So, if you would like to get a copy (free!), have a read and pass along your information to me.

For people who have been following Goldratt, the material in the book should sound very familiar, particularly the interspersed chapters of "letters to the community" that Goldratt uses in the book as examples of various elements of the discussion.  I felt that these were the weakest part of the monograph.  I much preferred the discussion format of the book, but I also see how the letters moved things forward in the discussion.

So, what is Inherent Simplicity?  It's what Goldratt has been professing throughout his business consulting career:  It's a deep understanding that is always a simple explanation to any seemingly intractable problem.  This leads one to use their intuition to find the core of the problem and develop a solution which both solves the immediate problem and doesn't create additional problems along the way.

Okay, but what did Goldratt spend 176 pages talking about?  Well, that was the nature of the conversation between Efrat and him.  Efrat doesn't get it, and the book is a means for helping her and the readers make the connections.  And in what I see as his classic style, he leads readers (and Efrat) through a series of discoveries about how people normally interact with problems.  Where does the discussion start? With a particular application of the TOC principles to business?  Nope.  With the statement that people want meaningful lives.

But there are some barriers, and this is the setup for the entire book.  What are the barriers and why are they either not barriers - or how can they be removed.

First, people assume the solution must be complex, because they feel the problem is complex.  But simplicity is not the opposite of complexity, in Goldratt's definition, rather it is a measure of how much difficulty is involved.  In a scientist's view, this is the degrees of freedom in the system.

Second, conflicts and obstacles are a fact of life, but people assume the best solution is a compromise - a compromise where someone comes out with less than they'd hoped.  Goldratt suggests that there are no real contradictions - that nature doesn't allow them.  "Nature is exceedingly simple."  He had an interesting discussion about how people tend to get so ingrained with their assumptions that they find it difficult to see them when they are in a conflict situation.  As a result, they see no option other than compromise.

There was an interesting item within this discussion that talked about why people and businesses tend to go for the easy solutions that have nothing to do with the core problems.  The difficulty of examining these assumptions is often so difficult that it leads people to believe problems cannot be solved.  As a result, they just go after the small things that have very little impact on the overall.

Third, along with being exceedingly simple, nature is harmonious with itself.  This leads Goldratt to the third barrier - that people have a tendency to blame one another for problems.  This builds on the previous two, but adds this other twist of our inclination to jump to the conclusion that a bad situation must be someone else's fault, rather than the natural reaction to various stimuli.  It's easier to assign blame than put in the effort to understand why people and the systems they operate behave the way they do.

There may be a fourth element / barrier for people reaching a full life, but I think this covers my current understanding of the book.  And it is one where the more I think and talk about it, the more (or less) I will admit to understanding it.  There are several other discussion elements of the book that I found interesting, but they all revolve around this idea of how to move from whatever the current reality to something bigger and brighter through the belief in Inherent Simplicity.

[Update minutes after posting] And if you are interested in talking with other people about the book, a discussion group has been created to do just that.  Just walk on over to the Inherent Simplicity group at Yahoo.  They've already started discussing the first couple chapters.

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