“Keep it simple, stupid” (KISS) is a popular adage. Originally developed by the U.S. Navy in 1960, KISS is well-entrenched as part of our lexicon. Even though the principle was designed with the military in mind, the adage works for nearly every facet of work and life. How did the Navy come to create this adage? Let’s take a look at its origins as well as how it has evolved well beyond the military’s reach.
Origins of KISS
The origins of the KISS principle can be traced back to the early 1970s and Kelly Johnson, an engineer at Lockheed Skunk Works. It was during this time that Johnson coined “keep it simple stupid” (no comma) with a simple story. Johnson’s work was focused on building something that could be repaired by a soldier in the field with basic training and simple tools. Johnson emphasized that war rarely allowed for conditions that would ever be good enough to do large-scale repair work. In other words, Johnson wanted products to be simple and easy to understand. If they weren’t, they were obsolete on the battlefield.
Today, keep it simple stupid is mostly thought of as an ideology about keeping things simple rather than more complicated. Whether you are building a website, creating an app or writing code, simplicity should be the name of the game. The more you try to include, the more likely things are to break or go wrong. Keeping it simple allows for a smaller chance of failure.
Similarity to Older Concepts
Researching KISS, two other concepts are often brought into the conversation. The first is from Albert Einstein, who famously said that “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” In other words, Einstein would consider product designs successful if they were at their maximum level of simplicity.
Separately, Occam’s Razor is a 14th-century theory that is often thought to be a backbone of the KISS principle. This hypothesis is best thought of as one where the simplest answer is most likely to be the correct answer. The more complicated the answer, the more a burden of proof exists to prove it right.
Apply KISS At Work
KISS can easily be applied to nearly any role. It doesn’t matter if you are a speechwriter, an engineer or an accountant. Ultimately, all of the work you do should be done in the simplest way without risking being wrong. If you are designing something for a customer, your thought should be about how to ease your customer into using your product or service in the easiest and simplest way. The last thing you want to do is create something that has a complicated barrier to entry which is likely to turn off new users.
Alternatively, you can also apply KISS at work with things like email. Keep your emails to five sentences or less. This way, you are allowing for less time to write your email and less time for your recipient to read it. The more concise you are, the more likely you are to be direct and to the point with less opportunity for superfluous language.
Apply KISS in Life
KISS can apply to every facet of your life. For example, you can spend an entire day deciding what to eat for dinner or ask yourself what the healthiest food is that you should eat. Then eat that food. Think about exercising: instead of worrying about what the latest fad is, just run, walk or do some weights. Don’t spend time focusing on whether or not you should join the latest fitness craze at the nearest mini mall. Go outside and start running. It’s simple but also eliminates the entirety of your decision process.
The same can be said for relationships. Keep it simple stupid can mean that you should stop wasting time on people who bring you down or whose motives you question. Instead, accept their truth or their version of the truth and move on. The more succinct and simplified you can make your communication with others, the less likelihood there is for something to be unsaid. Mind games are a drag too many people play. Keep it simple stupid will help you drop the mind games, say what you mean and move on.
Apply KISS to Be More Productive
One of the best ways KISS can be applied to something like productivity is through the Pomodoro technique. Work for 25 minutes and then take a 5-minute break. Repeat four times and then take a longer 25-minute break.
This technique ensures that your workday will remain focused and productive with bursts of work with no interruptions. You are keeping it simple by working in small increments, but the simpler it is, the more likely you are to make it work. Eventually, your brain will understand that each working session in the Pomodoro technique requires focus, and your productivity will increase.
If you find yourself struggling to manage your own time or schedule, write a list. Write a list of everything you need to do or accomplish the next day or for the whole week. Start with the most important to the least important and then get started. This simple list will ensure that your focus will be centered on completing these tasks. As you start to cross off each task, you will get a jolt of energy knowing you are accomplishing your tasks, which drives you to keep going.
Keep it simple stupid is hardly rocket science. While this theory started in the military, it has become something everyone can adopt somewhere in their life. For a principle that speaks about simplicity, it’s also as simple as it gets. There is little room for interpretation or misunderstanding. Can you adopt KISS into your life?