Sophisticated vs. Complicated

Remember learning to ride a bike or drive a car? It was hard at first, with all of those things to remember and do at once. Put your foot here, your hands there, look straight, now look in your mirrors, gas, brake, turn signals, WATCH OUT FOR THAT TREE!

Driving that car or riding that bike seemed like a very complex activity. You didn’t know the simple steps to take and they weren’t natural for you yet.

What we didn’t realize then was that those things were sophisticated, not complex. They only seemed complex because we were trying to learn and remember and do things all at once.

Breaking something down into smaller, easier to understand parts allowed us to master those things. We had training wheels for a bike, someone to hold us and push us when we needed it. Learning how much pressure to put on the brakes of a car while going straight in a parking lot.

We could then put those things together into a sophisticated process that became more than the sum of its parts. It just looks complex to those who don’t know.

The next time you are learning something complex, remember it is probably just sophisticated and you need to break it down into smaller parts and master those things before trying to do the rest. Agile adoption is a good candidate for that breakdown.

So if you are learning something new like Agile, find out where you can break it down and learn small things at first. If you are being taught or coached by someone else, make sure they teach you this way. It is much easier. If they disagree, ask them why.

4 Replies to “Sophisticated vs. Complicated”

    1. According to the dictionary, sure. The way I define it here, no. They look the same to the untrained observer, but I am making the distinction between the two as a useful tool to think from. I could argue that NOTHING is complex or sophisticated because they are just words. One person’s complex is another person’s easy or simple.

  1. So…am I considered wrong to say that Sophisticated is a manageable complication but Complicated is unmanageable sophistication?

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