In Sussex not so long ago, there was rise in burglaries.
Mainly businesses and private houses at night.
It was prosperous area, so the council wanted action taken.
The police said they’d put an officer there.
The council said that wasn’t enough.
They wanted the extra policing plus CCTV observation.
So CCTV cameras were installed, which needed a sophisticated control-room and specially trained staff.

One evening as the policeman was walking around the area, checking locks and doors, he got a call from the CCTV controller.
They had someone on their screen, loitering and acting suspiciously, right near where the policeman was, if he was quick he could arrest them.
The policeman took off, but when he got there he couldn’t see anyone.
The CCTV controller said they’d just seen the suspect running down that street.
The copper knew he’d have to move fast to catch him.
He started chasing the suspect in the direction they said he’d gone.
But when he got there, there was no one there.
The CCTV controllers said they’d just seen him running that way.
So the copper took off after him again.
But again, he’d gone.
The copper thought he must be out of condition.
Puffing and panting, running as fast as he could, but he always seemed to get there just too late.
The CCTV controllers couldn’t work it out.
Not only could the copper not catch the suspect, he couldn’t even see the suspect.
They were really frustrated, they could clearly see him on their cameras, what was wrong with the copper?
This situation went on like this for twenty minutes, with everyone getting increasingly frustrated with each other.
At that point the sergeant entered the control room.
He’d wanted to know what all the noise was about.
The CCTV controllers told the sergeant the constable was useless, he couldn’t even see the suspect they were trying to arrest.
The sergeant looked at the TV screens and said “What suspect?”
The controller stabbed the same screen with his finger and yelled “That suspect, there.”
The sergeant said “That’s the copper.”
The controller said “What?”
The sergeant said “The bloke on the screen is the copper, he’s in plain clothes.”
The controller said “Plain clothes?”
The sergeant started laughing very loudly.
He said “You plonker, you’ve had the copper chasing himself for the last twenty minutes. That’s why he can’t see anyone.”
And the sergeant laughed until he had to sit down.
He said “That’s why the suspect is always gone when he gets there.”
And that’s what happens when complexity gets in the way of common sense.
The job of thinking should always be to simplify things, not to make them more complicated.
The more complicated anything is, the harder it is.
That is why the purpose of any department, from planning to marketing to media to creative, should be to make things simpler.
Not to make things more complicated.
If you’re not making things simpler, you’re not doing your job.
If you’re making things more complicated you’re just getting in the way.
There is power in simplicity.
There is weakness in complexity.

As Edward de Bono says:
“Complexity means distracted effort. Simplicity means focussed effort.”

  • Lisa Cadwallader

    Simplicity and complexity are ends, not means. Instructing people to make something simple is as helpful as instructing people to make something famous.  Both are over-egged in briefs, one-pagers,  decks, and conference calls. 

    Making it interesting is more important, sometimes that doesn’t mean reduction; or dumbing down to bare essentials just so global brands can be reduced to one word trans-lateable equities. 

    Also, i don’t think those people in Sussex were making things complicated, you’ve just told a story about daft CCTV controller. 

  • Dave Trott

    Are you a planner Lisa?

    • Lisa Cadwallader

      No, i just get in the way

      • Dave Trott

        Same thing (some would say).

        • Lisa Cadwallader

          This has become far too complicated. 

          • Dave Trott

            QED Lisa

  • Khuroum Bukhari

    In this case, miscommunication gets in the way of simplicity. Why didn’t anyone tell CCTV controller that the officer on patrol was plain-clothed? You can’t blame telephones, emails or human error as being ‘complex’ either. Better, less distracting and complex analogies, Dave, for what is a sound point.

  • debra burke

    obviously the CCTV controller was not properly briefed. sound familiar?

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