The Other Side of Complexity

One of my all-time favorite quotes comes from Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, who said: “For the simplicity that lies this side of complexity, I would not give a fig, but for the simplicity that lies on the other side of complexity, I would give my life."

I think about this quote frequently, but it came to my mind again earlier this month when I read a Reuters article about bite counters. These devices, worn on the wrist, use motion to track the number of bites people take while eating. While they won’t help you eat healthier food, these devices, according to the Clemson University researchers who developed them, could provide much needed self-monitoring and feedback to people looking to lose or manage their weight.

Reading about bite counters, it’s hard not to think of the monsoon of health & wellness information we are inundated with on a daily basis. Information that can be arcane, complex and often contradictory. For the average American who is simply looking to take small steps every day toward a healthier lifestyle, this information can be overwhelming—and often discouraging.  

Instead of contributing to the monsoon, why don’t we resolve to teach Americans the basics about nutrition and how to read a food label for themselves. Instead of promoting a fad diet or device, let’s teach them about basic cooking techniques and the value of a walk.  

Sure, teaching Americans the fundamentals of nutrition and physical fitness isn’t easy, nor is it particularly flashy. It requires expertise, patience and persistence. Many marketers may think that a compelling, but potentially misleading health claim or hitching their brand to a current fad is the better business move. But how has that worked out so far?

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