The Pursuit of Simplicity Only Serves to Manufacture Our Consent, Not Our Understanding.

Cat looking for the understanding in complexity.
Cat looking for the understanding in complexity.
Seeking the understanding in complexity. Illustration by author.

There is nothing humans hate more than not knowing their place in the universe. We are continually looking at the world around us and demanding to understand our value within it. But that value is not easy to discern. Like a hurricane, there is no single root cause in a complex system. The harder one searches with the wrong perspective, the harder it becomes to find.

One of the reasons for this is our pursuit of finding a simple explanation in all things. As a society, we fetishise simplicity. We demand it from our governments, colleagues, friends and even family.


“Difficulty is what wakes up the genius” has become my mantra of 2020 (thanks Nassim Taleb). If that's true then what follows should be pure gold: a collection of my best reflections for a challenging year.

Product lessons from 2020
Product lessons from 2020
Bring on 2021 (Illustration by Author)

This year I tried something different. I wanted to craft an article each month on an interesting thought or lesson from my life as a product manager.

It’s been a long time since a year lived has taught me so much on living and working well.

In this article, I’ve summarised some of my most exciting ideas from the year. I hope you enjoy it and that it helps with your own reflections as we move forward together into 2021.

1. Turn your team into an idea factory

How to Persuade a Product Manager

Good ideas give us more opportunities for success.

We should encourage our teams to develop their thoughts with systems that…


What Are the Pros and Cons of Becoming Emotionally Attached to Your Project?

One person turning towards inspiration and a cat turning away
One person turning towards inspiration and a cat turning away
For or against inspiration? (Illustration by author)

Years ago, I was devastated when a project I had poured so much passion into was one day unceremoniously cancelled. It hurt. And what was worse was I had encouraged my team to also emotionally invest themselves. I learned many lessons from that experience. I vowed never to put myself or anyone else in such a vulnerable emotional state again. Work was not worth it. Now I’m starting to rethinking that approach.

In the office, we are encouraged to take a rational, not passionate approach to our daily tasks. …


Our attitude to complexity is what determines our autonomy.

Cat measuring a sand dune with calipers
Cat measuring a sand dune with calipers
Trying to measure something complex is like trying to measure a sand dune.

“What is the difference between something complicated and complex anyway?” is a typical question often posed to me during a challenging planning session.

Unbeknownst to my inquirer, they have just invited me to change their world view. I’m no expert in complexity theory, but I know enough to be dangerous.

I reply, “Comparing complicated with the complex is like comparing a Swiss watch with a Frog. You probably could only put one of those back together again”. The difference is the levels of the unknown in between.

What I want my inquirer to take away from this forum is that…


No affiliate links. No financial incentives. Just a simple product manager’s own beautiful biases for the best picks of 2020.

Cat looking at 2020 with a knife, homepod, pillow and coffee grinder
Cat looking at 2020 with a knife, homepod, pillow and coffee grinder
Things I loved in 2020. Illustration by author

Tech and Home

Coffee Grinder — Porlex Coffee Grinder, Silver, Tall


Product manager struggling to do work on his laptop at night
Product manager struggling to do work on his laptop at night
The Product Manager’s Annual Report. Illustration by author

A product manager observes his screen glow
As the winter nights continue to grow and grow
His mind fleeting and a flutter
What has been achieved this year? I ask
How is it unlike any other?

As the annual report begins to loom
A stark absence of accomplishment sucks inspiration from the room

But, not all is lost
A glimmer of hope begins to bloom
Though I may have achieved materially little
Perhaps there is more to glean from the gloom

“A wealth of experiences have I” I utter
“Learning from failure is the real teacher” I sputter

I take…


What we learned in bringing people within a large product organisation closer together. Even when we all went remote.

The interdisciplinary nature of the product manager’s job is fertile ground for learning. I find that we can spend as much time building products as building up teams for success.

Each member of a product team helping contribute to success like the parts of a mechanical watch
Each member of a product team helping contribute to success like the parts of a mechanical watch
Product teams are like a mechanical watch (Illustration by author)

I am obsessed with the problem of team building. How can one take a valuable user issue, validate and quantify it, then apply those insights to develop a motivated and high functioning team and deliver value quickly? I’ve been mulling over this question for years. Then finally, last year I got my chance! I was asked to rebuild a search engine and put together a team to achieve it.

In…


The limited ways we have been taught to interpret the world also limits our ability to understand our users. Nobody has taught me how to do this, so I decided to explore some solutions.

How did it all go wrong? How could the product I built have been so bad? All that time, just, wasted. Will anyone ever trust me again?

A man and a cat looking at a small tree, but not seeing the large roots below. “What you see” vs “The real problem”
A man and a cat looking at a small tree, but not seeing the large roots below. “What you see” vs “The real problem”
How to see the real problem. Illustration by author.

Most product managers have been in this position at some point. Maybe we thought we understood the problem we were solving, but as time passes the issues just keep multiplying. It’s a mess, but I think it stems from something deeper. We have never really been taught how to understand the problems of the users we are trying to help

You can have the world’s best engineering team, but without understanding a user’s…


2020 has been a hotbed of political and social debates. Curious, I got out my python script, scraped some academic data and set out to find what academics within the social sciences are talking about in September 2020.

From coronavirus to lockdown, Black Lives Matters, US presidential elections, the politicisation of public health, trans rights, colonial guilt and climate change denial, the list is undeniably important and keeps growing.

Image for post
Image for post
Trending in Social Science. Illustration by author.

What follows are four topics based on the most popular papers that academics in the social sciences have been reading on the academic social network, Mendeley. If you want more details on how I collected and used the data, I’ve added a section at the end. Enjoy!

1. Race, Police Killings and Black Protest Strategies

The risk of being killed by police in the United States

Trending Paper: Risk of being killed by police use of force in the United States by age

Researchers wanted to find out…


Today we operate from a basis of knowledge, confidence and creativity to pull together insights and build successful products. Here, I want to share how creating a personal note-taking system can act as a catalyst for connecting knowledge and ideas that will save you time, enhance problem-solving and boost creative thought.

Cat making connections with string between notes hung from a conveyor belt system exiting and entering a brain through a door
Cat making connections with string between notes hung from a conveyor belt system exiting and entering a brain through a door
Making Connections. Illustration by author

Today we consume more information per person than at any other time in human history. We are continually reading, observing, monitoring, conversing and mentally trying to build a knowledge of the world we can use in our daily work and lives. The problem? The disparity between the total quantity of human knowledge and our ability to assimilate and filter it grows unremittingly by the day.

Imagine being able to recall any interesting thing you have read, seen or done. How amazing would that be? Any problem, any piece of creative work or project, boosted by a library of your historical…

Adrian H. Raudaschl

Physician turned product manager working in the world of academic research and health. https://www.linkedin.com/in/adrian-raudaschl/

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