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Too Complex To Solve

“A conference is a gathering of important people who singly can do nothing, but together can decide that nothing can be done.” — Fred Allen

This insight may have been based on the fact that any problem, if studied long enough by experts, can be proven to be too complex to solve. John Kenneth Galbraith may have isolated a key variable associated with this phenomenon, “Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.” It’s likely unfair to call this busy work; but it would certainly be justifiable to have a conference to explore it.

Along with conferences, another popular alternative to problem solving and dealing with issues is reorganization, in its many forms and permutations. For example, “We trained hard – but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams we were reorganized. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganizing, and what a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while actually producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralization.” Lest you think this is a new and innovative approach to doing nothing, the frustration was expressed by Petronius Arbiter in 210 B.C.

Scott Smith offered a more contemporary strategy when he said, “The illusion of progress can be achieved by simply rearranging the terms of description so that new acronyms are created.” Of course, Smith was merely confirming Irene Peter’s point, “Just because everything is different doesn’t mean anything has changed.” It comes as no surprise that Ogden Nash likely had the ultimate rationale for doing nothing. “Progress might have been all right once, but it has gone on too long.” There you go; enough is enough.

A couple more thoughts may suffice to permanently dissuade you from thinking that doing anything, taking action, or real progress are either good or desirable. Arnold Bennett knew that “Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts;” and who needs drawbacks and discomforts? No one needs either. No less of an authority than Confucius said, “Only the wisest and stupidest of men never change.” How about that? Not only is the status quo free from drawbacks and discomforts, doing nothing is actually the way of the wise.

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