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Simple Rules: How to Thrive in a Complex World
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Simple Rules: How to Thrive in a Complex World

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  1,802 ratings  ·  131 reviews
Complexity surrounds us. We have too much email, juggle multiple remotes, and hack through thickets of regulations from phone contracts to health plans. But complexity isn’t destiny. Sull and Eisenhardt argue there’s a better way. By developing a few simple yet effective rules, people can best even the most c
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published April 21st 2015 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published March 3rd 2015)
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Athan Tolis
Jun 17, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: ec-and-finance
I design (and follow!) rules for a living, so I’m rather interested in rules. My attitude is I try to craft the most complete set of rules that I know for sure I can follow. Now, in the narrow setting within which I operate, the rules are executed by a computer, so there’s no risk they will be forgotten. The way I see it, the constraint is that they should be simple enough that I can trust they will never contradict each other or cancel each other out or land me in a place where I have no rule t ...more
Oct 07, 2015 rated it it was ok
Honestly, this book was a bit of a disappointment. Simple Rules could have easily been written as a two-page blog post. Here is a two sentence summary: Come up with a short list of rules for working and living so you don't waste time and overthink. This will become a strategy for you to become productive and profitable.
The case studies are too long and detract from the authors main points. For a book about simplicity, the authors should have written it more simply.
Preston Kutney
Jun 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
Simple rules are shortcut strategies or rules of thumb that save time and effort by focusing our attention and simplifying the way we make decisions.

Simple rules work because:
1) They provide a threshold level of structure while leaving ample room for discretion and flexibility.

2) They focus on key aspects of a decision while ignoring peripheral considerations, cutting down the complexity and adding parsing the signal from the noise to the decision process.

3) They are efficient. When time is s
Heidi The Reader
Oct 18, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: business, non-fiction
I enjoyed the examples that the authors cite for simple rules helping to solve complex problems, but I wasn't entirely convinced by them. Also, the manner in which to create your own 'simple rules' wasn't really that simple. I thought that in a book with the title, Simple Rules, that they'd give me a checklist of how to do it. Step 1, 2, 3, you know. The simple rules for how to make simple rules. But, that wasn't the case. Since each problem, situation, business, and life is different, the autho ...more
Apr 01, 2016 rated it did not like it
You know those self-help books that start every new section with an anecdotal story. Man, I hate those books. The authors seem to think that everyone likes a story. Well, I do as a rule (see what I did there). But I want to pick my own stories, and choose when to read them. If I read a book which purports to lay out a way of methodically tackling the issues of life I don’t want to have to read 200 stories to get to the meat.

This book is about the worst offender in this genre. How many stories a
John (JP)
Jul 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Simple Rules, how to thrive in a complex world by Donald Skull and Kathleen Eisenhardt. Simple rules are shortcut strategies that save time and effort by focusing our attention and simplifying the way we process information. A real world application of this is the battle field and emergency room triage systems. An ER has simple rules of thumb which prioritize which patients are seen before other clients no matter what order they arrive. This allows the late arriving heart attack victim to be see ...more
Jul 01, 2015 rated it liked it
The premise of the book is interesting - simple rules to cut through complexity. Easy to remember, easy to execute, potentially unambiguous.

Like many nonfiction business books of this ilk it seems to be a good idea stretched out too long. The point is delivered quickly, there is really not that much structure that they teach and the use cases they represent are interesting but spread through the book.

A pretty straightforward read with many good ideas to extract. There is certainly more here tha
Jurgen Appelo
Apr 30, 2016 rated it liked it
The book makes a complete mess of terminology (complex/complicated) but the message is OK, although it could have been written in 10 pages.
Brittany Joiner
Nov 19, 2017 rated it it was ok
Maybe I’m just used to hearing about this kind of stuff, but I feel like this didn’t really say anything new or profound. I kept hanging with it to see if it would get better, but was a little disappointed. The gist is exactly the title - have simple rules. Use rules to make decisions, and only have a few of them. The book went through a lot of examples and stories so if you’re into that kind of stuff maybe you’d enjoy it more than me. Loved the concept, just felt like it could have been a blog ...more
Alaeddin Hallak
The key message in this book:
In a world of overwhelming complexity, Simple Rules are here to help. They help us make better choices and improve our performance, while remaining easy to follow and highly customizable. With experience, negotiation and considered observations of your own problems, you too can create your own personal Simple Rules and find easy fixes for even the most complicated of problems.
Cliff Chew
Jan 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
A nice light read, the first half of the book describes the 6 types of simple rules that exist. The 2nd half of the book provides even more examples of how companies have adopted simple rules in their corporations. To me, the 2nd half of the book was more interesting, and most probably more useful for people who are picking up this book.
Jan 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
There is nothing earth-shattering in this book on how simple rules can make excellent decisions. However, it presents the concepts in a way that is immediately useful. I can see how I use simple rules every day. Perhaps more importantly, I am now seeing places where I need to design some simple rules.
Daniel D. Muck
Simple fun and educational

I learned of this book from an interview with the author on a radio show. I was intrigued by the interview and purchased the book. What a joy to read! It is very insightful and fun to read.
Apr 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Good advice for anyone, business life, personal life, any task needing quick decision making.
Chris Esposo
Jan 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book could be a good counterpoint to the current paradigm of applying machine learning to everything in business and society. Instead of increasing technical complexity, this perspective aims to popularize the notion that simple rules (never really defined in the book) can replace complex rules/decision-making procedures, which will actually increase the effectiveness of that procedure. The author believes most business and governmental organizations in the United States are plagued by over ...more
Erika RS
Apr 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book was probably better as a seminar. The content is 5 star, but the book itself feels more like 2-3. Sull and Eisenhardt discuss the value of simple rules, how to define them, and how to refine them over time. The process is heavily illustrated with examples. Examples are useful, but these end up taking center stage so that the process itself feels almost like a footnote to the stories. I do not blame the authors for this. There is not a good publication vehicle for useful, straightforwar ...more
Raz Pirata
“You have to work hard to get your thinking clear, to make it simple” Steve Jobs

Are you finding your professional life, social life, and personal life, drowning in the increasing complexity of a modern world? Do you dream of becoming the subject of a Rockwell painting? Wistfully imaging some romanticized simpler past? If so, Simple Rules will not help you. However, if you are hunting for a more efficient way to combat the complexity of solving problems and deciding in the real-world, Simple Rule
Terri Griffith
Dec 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Copy of my review from:

In the recent top rated book, Simple Rules: How to Thrive in a Complex World , Donald Sull and Kathleen Eisenhardt offer that, “When many parties must work together, simple trumps complex” (p. 44). This is a beautiful fit for the future of work, a future made up of complex work, performed in complex ways. Freelancers, contractors, and global project work, all intermingle with traditional organizational forms. Rather than try and unde
Larry Bassett
Feb 11, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
I have recently been pretty focused on audible fiction and since this is a nonfiction book the reading style is not quite so theatrical! But the authors of this book are quite the name droppers. Lots of well-known names both of people and businesses. And plenty of unknown names as well. The research in this book to find examples to illustrate their points must have been quite extensive. Of course when you come through thousands of businesses and individuals for examples to fit your arguments and ...more
Peter Colclasure
May 24, 2017 rated it it was ok
A classic example of a book that should have been a magazine article. I learned some interesting stuff about the White Stripes, though. While recording White Blood Cells, they stuck to five rules.
1. no blues
2. no guitar solos
3. no slide guitar
4. no covers
5. no bass

I learned that if you want to minimize the chances of having your house burglarized while you are on vacation, leave a car parked outside. I learned Tina Fey's rule for dealing with eccentric comedians. "Never tell a crazy person he's
Colin Davis
Jul 25, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: skimmed
"Make rules that are effective in many situations."

"Don't make rules so complicated you can't remember them."

Find out:
a) What you need to get something done (critical action)
b) The things stopping you from getting that done
c) Make a rule that helps you with A and B

"Change rules if the situation calls for it."

These things are not wrong, but I feel like they fall short of profound. I'm glad I had my attention brought towards the process of lawmaking, and the book is full of great examples of pe
Ryan Hanford
Jan 17, 2018 rated it liked it
I stalked out about halfway through this book. I found it repetitive and difficult to get through at the time. I may cone back to it later if something piques my interest with the material in this book.

I think there are some good concepts to deal with the constant rush if modern life. This is especially true for extremely busy individuals that feel like they just can't get a grip in everything. I feel like the book was a bit academic, so applying it to your own life and experiences will take som
Jamie Fuller
May 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This book feels simplistic while you're reading it, but the information and lessons within are POWERFUL.

The authors explain how, in the face of ever-increasing complexity, we can often benefit from developing and implementing a handful of very simple rules for ourselves. They explain what these rules look like, when they can most powerfully be used, how to develop them, and how to apply them.

You can use these rules in any area of your life, and it's worth giving this book a shot to see how it
Jul 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Received a lot of insights from this, plenty of quotable, actionable advice. You just have to read actively and keep an eye out for such gems which you can inculcate in your own life to suit your own needs. Enjoyed the cases and examples. They provided the most "Aha!" moments. Overall, an insightful read. The crux is simple, but the cases elaborate upon it, which may or may not be palatable for some readers. ...more
Nga Zhi Hao
Simple rules is as per titled, introducing us to no new concept but rather explore this concept that has been in our lives pretty much in entirety.

It shows us the little things like how simple rules form, why it works, how it helps. It is refreshing to learn and renew knowledge on the subtleties in life. Otherwise also an easy read because of reader friendly font, font size and formatting.
Rand Hall
from the dust jacket: provide a clear framework for developing effective rules and making them better over time.

they didn't do that. this was interesting in a Malcolm Gladwell style pop sort of way. but the authors did not accomplish their goal.
Randolph Breschini
Aug 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
A very "simple" read with very straight forward suggestions. K.I.S.S...I highly recommend it to those who believe that they are in such a complex assignment and/or world...this will help to simply ones approach...Enjoy... ...more
Adam Alive
Concise yet insightful

There is no clear cut strategy as to what simple rules should you employ to reach results, this is about putting things in perspective how simple rules can be applied in different walks of life
Apr 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Th premise is interesting but I think the content would be much better in a class setting where you could work through the process. However if the rules for insomnia cure mine I’ll come back and change that star rating to a 5!
Tara Brabazon
May 11, 2018 rated it liked it
I am so over the - I live in San Francisco here is my start up - model of publishing.

This is better than most.

Here is my idea.

How do I make money out of my idea.

This book offers solutions.

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Donald Sull is a Senior Lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management. He is a global authority on managing in turbulent markets, and directs a week-long course on effectively executing strategy in volatile markets. He has been identified as a leading management thinker by The Economist, the Financial Times, and Fortune which named him among the ten new management gurus to know. The Economist lis ...more

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