# Identifying Overly Complex Tasks

It seems to me that societies frequently construct systems that may be too complicated for any individual to operate competently within. For example, the tax system, the legal system, the medical coding system, etc. I have intuitions about how one might detect if any given system is too complex. For example, a lack of consensus in how to perform system specific tasks (e.g. filling out a tax return), a large error rate among system task performers, a failure of system participants to get better over time. I am interested in reading research in this area, if any exists. Can some one provide me with suggested readings?

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I would classify these as systems having a high degree of ambiguity rather than calling them "overly complex". With the right amount of experience, professionals in tax, law, and medical coding navigate these concepts just fine. – Chuck Sherrington Jan 1 '14 at 6:35
I can't speak to to taxes and the legal system, but I do know quite a bit about medical coding and the research that has been done in this area. The research has shown consistently that professionals have error rates in the range of 20 to 30 percent. I am looking for a more general framework in which to interpret these results. Hence the request for pointers to preexisting research. – Elliott Jan 1 '14 at 18:22
@ChuckSherrington: "overly complex" implies the potential capacity to navigate the system with the benefit of experience (which helps simplify the experience of scenario navigation by facilitating automation), whereas "high degree of ambiguity" implies a lack of clarity that might not be resolvable at any level of expertise. Then again, experts also develop more complex schema, which aid in ambiguity resolution, so...This issue is both complex and ambiguous itself...as are the terms themselves! To some extent they're even synonymous, so the semantic problem seems pretty semantic (trivial). – Nick Stauner Jan 2 '14 at 13:12
@NickStauner a large error rate among system task performers, a failure of system participants to get better over time doesn't imply that experience is helping to navigate the system. I'm not sure you've really proven your point here. – Chuck Sherrington Jan 2 '14 at 13:33
True; With the right amount of experience, professionals in tax, law, and medical coding navigate these concepts just fine does. ;) What you just quoted could result from a particularly steep learning curve too though, so you can't rule out complexity as the problem just because few or none have navigated it. My point is that you can't really prove your point (that your phrasing is necessarily more suitable), so it might boil down to a trivial distinction, especially if the original question applies reasonably well to both ambiguous and complex (somewhat synonymous!) systems. – Nick Stauner Jan 2 '14 at 13:55