The Difference between “Complicated” and “Complex” Matters

I stumbled upon this concise and precise essay on the topic of “complicated vs. complex.” Particularly “the potty training” example demonstrates so well what happens when the two clashes.

I could not have written it better. So I decided to reblog it.

Enjoy,

Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

What’s the difference between sending a rocket to the moon and getting children to succeed in school? What’s the difference between a surgeon extracting a brain tumor and judge and jury deciding guilt or innocent for a person accused of murder?

Answers: sending a rocket to the moon and surgeons extracting brain tumors are complicated tasks while getting children to succeed in school (or, for that matter, raising a child) and the criminal justice system are complex.

According to York University (Ontario, Canada) business professor Brenda Zimmerman, complicated procedures like brain surgery and rocket launchings require engineer-designed blueprints, step-by-step algorithms, well-trained staff, and exquisite combinations of computer software running carefully calibrated equipment. Think rocket landing on the moon in 1969, doctor-controlled robotic arms doing brain surgery, and the U.S. “shock and awe” invasion of Iraq in 2003.

A complicated system assumes expert and rational leaders, top-down planning, smooth implementation of…

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Soydanbay says:

    Here is another great explanation by http://english.stackexchange.com/users/5095/bye:

    Complexity is intrinsic. Something is complex if it involves a lot of [metaphorical] moving parts even when considered as a Platonic ideal.

    Complication is extrinsic. Something is complicated by external influences, or because of external influences.

  2. Soydanbay says:

    Here is another great take on the subject:
    https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/complicated-complex-knowing-difference-important-will-allen

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