Keep It Simple: Can Complexity Save Us? Part 3

Keep It Simple: Can Complexity Save Us? Part 3


KISS has been a well used, and perhaps over used, acronym and mantra for some time.  Keep It Simple Stupid.  If we could keep it simple, there was less potential of something going wrong.  But perhaps that’s where it was going wrong.  Perhaps we need to embrace the complexity and work with it rather than avoid it.

Battling through the chest-deep snow to get to the exit point for a wingsuit proximity BASE jump.

Battling through the chest-deep snow to get to the exit point for a wingsuit proximity BASE jump.


In Part 1 of Keep It Simple I talked about simplicity and continued with the need to educate rather than legislate.  In Part 2 I looked at how all content producers are educators and influencers and I outlined a method of producing and providing the quality content that can assist with this education.  I’m now going to embrace the complexity and show how it can save us rather than hinder us.


The Ark


Back in 1981 a couple of psychologists asked a simple question: “How many animals of each kind did Moses take on the Ark?”  81% answered ”two”.  It wasn’t until later that 96% added that the animals were actually on the ark with Noah and not Moses.

Our minds can miss the simple yet seemingly obvious detail.  We often fail to focus on the entire landscape during our cognitive processing.  Keeping it simple won’t necessarily help – when we’re confronted with simplicity we’re less likely to be challenged and more likely to overlook the detail.

BASE jumping and skydiving can require split second judgement.  Failure to focus on the landscape and missing a critical detail can be fatal.




In BASE jumping and skydiving, our lives have got easier.  We can do back-to-back jumps using 2 rigs and packers.  20 jump days used to be unheard of but are now normal in a team’s training programme.  Fast cable cars and easily accessible exit points create an easy opportunity.  We can jump with much more ease than used to be the case.


Missing The Complexity


This lack of complexity in our lives means we are more likely to miss the obvious detail – I’ve been there.

If we’re keeping things simple we’re not questioning, we’re not asking the ‘what if’ questions and we’re not looking for alternative answers and solutions that might just save our lives.  Sure, we’re not completely brain dead, but it’s too easy to gloss over the landscape and not focus on the detail.


Embrace The Complex


We need to embrace complexity.  We need to create that challenge that keeps our minds active and ensures appropriate mental cognition.   We need to challenge our brains and create mental complexity, forcing us to spot the flaws in the detail before it’s too late.  We need to complicate the simple!


Is It That Simple?


But is what we do really that simple?  Or are we just ignorant of the factors involved.  For example, In Part 1 of Preventing Death I highlighted how little most skydivers and BASE jumpers know about the weather.  In Part 2 of that post I asked how expert we really were.  Perhaps we need to re-invigorate the complexity and include this detail as a regular fixture within our routine.




We need to include the complexity: Learn and understand the conditions, turbulence, updrafts, roll over, wind sheers, thermal activity, local conditions/advice, anabatic and katabatic winds and a multitude of other factors that I’m just touching upon.  Introduce these factors and considerations into your pre-jump routine.  Rehearse.  What are your actions on for all likely and possible scenarios?  Have you practiced them that day and before that jump?  Rehearse.  Make it complex.

With added complexity it is harder to gloss over the landscape and miss the detail.  With more to consider, you are required to  invoke a deeper cognitive thought process and a more detailed focus on the overall environment.  You become less likely to miss the finite detail.  This complexity might just save your life.


It Can Happen To You


Take time to understand the complexity of what it is that you do.  Break down the components and consider them one at a time.  Add these aspects into your planning and understand the second and third order effects of each outcome.

It doesn’t matter who you are, how experienced or how much of an expert you’ve become, your brain can still gloss over the landscape and miss that life-saving detail.  It can happen to you.

Whatever level you’re at, if you’re finding something simple then increase your caution and awareness, remove the complacency, add just a little more complexity and ensure you remain fully focussed while undertaking what can be an unforgiving activity.

Good luck.


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