Workplaces are drowning and taking their organisations down with them. I can no more log into LinkedIn than flick through my Twitter feed without encountering reams of articles on models, strategies, rules and how to. There are models for engaging staff, strategies for hiring, complex sales approaches, management styles, leadership structures, learning models, rules… the list is endless.

I just don’t understand it.

These creaking behemoths of organisations with layer upon layer of complexity, dictating what ‘business’ looks like to the world, spouting jargon, suppressing individuality, placing regulation and command where it need not exist. At some point, they all started from zero. Sometime, somewhere, every major and minor player in the entire corporate world was nothing more than an idea. A vision formed usually by just one person, or a small collection of individuals.

The vision is never to create complexity, stifle creativity, block enthusiasm and create rows of robotic humans towing a specific line and repeating tasks ad infinitum. The vision is always exciting, different, thoughtful, creative and ready to make its mark. How does it get so lost, as it grows into a successful reality?


In always searching for the competitive edge, we have a human tendency to search for knowledge, in experts who can tell us how to do things. No one ever won a book deal or a lucrative speaking contract for advising organisations to:

Stay true to your beliefs

Keep it simple

Just talk it through — with everyone

Complexity implies knowledge — or at least we think it does. We want models, systems. We want to do what other people have done, reduce the risk and succeed without putting our individual necks and careers on the line. Deep down, we’re all scared and searching for answers.

Ridiculously, it’s the experts themselves who are the least secure. They’re waiting to be found out — confused that statements as simple as just ask why can be turned into lucrative tours, TED talks, multiple books and international praise as thought leadership.

Put any model or strategy under scrutiny and you’ll see one thing in common. Underneath them all, there’s a simple common sense answer. Yes, sometimes you need someone to show it to you — so there is a place for our experts- but the dynamic founders of the ventures that became today’s corporations didn’t look for complexity, they took simplicity… and went for it.

If you think about it, what are organisations for, anyway?

Yes, they have their own individual missions in whichever areas they choose to trade, but regardless of whether we’re talking about global conglomerates or local sole traders, as an organisation there are only three things you really need to get right.

To succeed, all an organisation needs is:

  • The right people
  • In the right places
  • Doing the right things

Anything over and above that is complexity.

If you want to make it even simpler, all an organisation needs to do is create the environment where that happens… an environment for its people to thrive. It’s simple!

So, what’s the most important part of any organisation? People. Without them, there is no organisation.

The business world is starting to understand that. There are very successful organisations emerging who focus wholly on people, flatten the structure, communicate internally. There are also those organisations who walk the trodden path, the path of structure, complexity, models and rules… the ones who believe their own hype. Their time is drawing to an end.

Evolution is coming.

In a completely unrelated conversation recently, my friend Rich Lloyd paraphrased Darwin when he said:

…evolution isn’t about the ‘strongest’ or survival of the fittest, which people make the mistake of thinking it is‏. It’s about the best, that can adapt.‏

This is the kind of expert I need.

By Andy Swann on January 23, 2015.
Exported from Medium on July 15, 2016.