Simple Rules: How to Thrive in a Complex World

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What is the book “Simple Rules” about?

At the beginning of the book, authors give us an example of the situation that demanded an immediate and simple solution.

Military doctor Edward Montoya was in military service in a hospital in Iraq, which was also visited by civilians. During the service, all doctors were supposed to carry a gun. One day, when Montoya approached the counter to take the dessert for dinner, the suicide bomber entered the dining room. He approached a group of soldiers lined up for lunch, and his suicide belt exploded. Montoya managed to hide behind the counter. Thanks to this, he remained unharmed.

The first thing Montoya did was check the injured soldiers next to him. He applied bandages, tourniquets and even used napkins to stop the bleeding. He checked the wounded soldiers’ pulse and blood pressure to determine their medical condition. Simply put, he acted in accordance with a set of several simple rules to understand who should get medical help first.

Gravely wounded soldiers that required urgent medical treatment were sent to the hospital in the first place. However, the hospital did not have enough free space for so many severely wounded people. Soldiers with lesser injuries had to wait for their turn to receive medical attention in the cars in the parking lot. Some patients underwent surgery in the ambulance cars or in the rooms not intended for providing medical care. The doctors in the hospital followed Montoya’s example and sorted the patients by the severity of their wounds.

Due to obvious reasons, during an actual combat situation, the possibilities for providing medical assistance are limited. That’s why military doctors should have a good understanding of what patients require medical attention in the first place. The lives of wounded soldiers depend on decisions that doctors must to make in a limited time frame and sometimes even under fire.

During the WW II, field surgeons used a strict order of priority for medical care. Injured patients were quickly sorted by three or four priority levels. These levels depended on the pulse rate and respiratory rate and were marked with tags of different colors. The green tag meant that the patient has mild injuries and can wait, the black tag suggested it was a hopeless case and death is imminent.

The severely wounded were marked with red tags, and the common injuries were marked with yellow tags. This sorting method helped to direct insufficient medical resources to those most in need.

According to authors, these sorting method is an excellent example of a simple yet effective set of rules designed to help you make the right decisions and act quickly in an extreme situation.

When dealing with complex problems, we usually look for complex solutions. However, the writers say that this mindset is not only inefficient but also harmful to us. It doesn’t mean that we should simplify everything, we should rather create a set of simple rules that will be our guideline in solving problems.

Summary and 10 Ideas of “Simple Rules”

Idea #1: Simple rules will save your time and energy by simplifying the ways of information processing.

Idea #2: Simple rules can help you to distinguish the right decision from the wrong one.

Idea #3: The rule of parsimony will help you choose the right solution from several alternatives.

Idea #4: The rule of priority will help you determine the sequence of actions and sort the alternatives by importance level.

Idea #5: The rule of stopping will help you make a pause and reconsider your decisions.

Idea #6: The rule of coordination underpins the interaction with other people.

Idea #7: Simple rules will prove useful both in business and in personal life.

Idea #8: You can always adapt your rules according to the current situation.

Idea #9: A change of situation demands a change of rules.

Idea #10: Not everything is solvable with the help of simple rules.

Review “Simple Rules”

The book is quite compelling and argumentative. All in all, the authors’ ideas are reasonable and justified, although not everything is achievable with a set of simple yet effective rules as the writers suggest.

Simple rules can help you find the right solution in an extreme situation and avoid unnecessary risk and rash decisions. The rules shouldn’t be confused with the boundaries that limit our desires and opportunities. A simple set of rules can be a very useful tool for achieving success.

Pros and Cons:

  • Valuable advice, clear narration, exciting examples from various fields of life.
  • Some ideas are repetitive.
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