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Simple Rules

How to Thrive in a Complex World

By Donald Sull and Kathleen Eisenhardt
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  • Contains 9 key ideas
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Simple Rules by Donald Sull and Kathleen Eisenhardt

Simple Rules (2015) contains the ultimate rules of thumb that’ll guide you to your goals in your professional life, and your personal life too. The tips provided in these blinks will help you rediscover simplicity in an increasingly complex modern world, without committing you to a crazy checklist that takes over your life.

Key idea 1 of 9

The world is overwhelmingly complex – but Simple Rules will help us cope.

Take a moment to imagine you’re a medical doctor at an army hospital. Several badly wounded patients come in, and you’re faced with the task of deciding whom to treat first. What do you do? Luckily for you, there are a handful of reliable rules to follow that’ll make things simpler.

Simple Rules are clear guidelines for well-defined activities or situations. Their purpose? To help you make good choices when things start to get convoluted.

Simple Rules reduce the factors you have to consider in a situation by highlighting the crucial, thus preventing you from ruminating over trivial details. This enables you to make good choices, and fast – something very useful in the case of an army hospital. How do you sort out what’s crucial in this hypothetical scenario?

Check your patients’ vital signs, such as their pulse, to estimate the severity of their condition. This takes less than a minute per patient. Those with the most alarming vital signs have to be treated first – unless they’re beyond hope, in which case you’d better focus on saving someone else’s life. Already this basic triage has lifted you clear of the pressing dilemma of what to do.

As one of the only tools that help us deal with complexity, we need Simple Rules more than ever. Our world is far from straightforward. Firstly, more and more things are interconnected – from our technological devices at home to markets around the globe. Moreover, our own rules and regulations have gotten so intricate that it’s hard to stay on top of things.

Just take the US tax code: it’s 3.8 million words long. To put that into context, that’s seven times longer than War and Peace! The code is so complicated that the government employs 1.2 million tax preparers just to cope. Unsurprisingly, the US tax code overwhelms even the experts: On average, every third piece of advice by an IRS expert is wrong.

In such a labyrinthine world, mistakes seem unavoidable. But with Simple Rules, you can better your chances of making your way through treacherously tangled situations. Find out more in the coming blinks.

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