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BeeHive  >  Press Articles  >  An object lesson in the pitfalls of simplification

An object lesson in the pitfalls of simplification

A few weeks ago I was up in Glasgow to speak at the AIFA regional conference. The night before the speakers were treated to a pretty good dinner hosted by AIFA and, for once in a busy month, I was able to unwind and have a great discussion with a good crowd of pensions people and we spent the night putting the pensions world to rights etc. etc. Great. We should have more evenings like that.

During the evening, my good friend Peter Williams of AEGON offered to give me a lift to the conference the next day. The conference wasnít being held in our hotel, it was outside of town at Hampden Park. That was nice too, camaraderie in the industry, that sort of thing; we all work for different companies, but weíre all mates too. The way it should be.

When we set off in the morning, though, it became immediately obvious to me that at some point the evening before I had probably given Peter the mistaken impression that I knew the way from the Hilton hotel to Hampden. I donít, never have done, and probably never will. A good sense of direction isnít my long suit. Iím rubbish at it, to be fair.

Itís also fair to say that Peter began to panic. He had every right to; he was supposed to be speaking before me. I had a bit more leeway, but we needed a map of Glasgow quickly so we rushed back to the hotel and got one. Or, at least, we thought we did. What we actually got was a simplified version of a map of Glasgow which only showed some of the streets, but we didnít have time to worry about that - we just rushed off at top speed.

The fact that the simplified map of Glasgow didnít have many of the streets on it was a big problem, but not as bad as the fact that the map didnít go as far out of the city as we needed. Hampden Park was above the map, roughly half-way up the text describing the dining facilities in the hotel, and approximately where the guy on the desk of the hotel had helpfully put a big cross in biro.

Without wanting to bore you with the details, we did eventually make it to the venue in the nick of time and in a reasonably flustered state. We then both proceeded to do our conference speeches on the merits of pensions simplification. A bit ironic really, as weíd just been given the perfect object lesson as to why simplification is not always a good thing in real life.

Steve Bee

First published in Pensions Management, 01 July 2002