KISS goes back many years. It is reputed that Leonardo da Vinci said that "simplicity is the ultimate sophistication". In the business world, Kelly Johnson, an engineer at Lockheed Aircraft Works reportedly coined the phrase "keep it simple, stupid". He was tasked with designing jet aircraft that had to be repaired easily by field mechanics with limited tools.
Following on from Johnson, the economist, Ernst Schumacher, postulated that small is beautiful. His book by that title was published in 1973 and in it he argued that production from local resources for local needs is the most rational way of economic life. Large corporations become behemoths, unwieldy, complicated and inefficient. Small organisations are more focused, simpler and more efficient.
The theme of simplicity has been picked up by Ken Segall. Ken Segall worked as creative director for an agency employed by Steve Jobs at Apple. Steve Jobs was a great one for simplifying. Time spent with Jobs led Ken Segall to publish "Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple's success” in 2012. In the book Segall tells many stories of how Steve Jobs was driven mad by his desire for simplicity. For example he hated presentations when in his view what was being said could have been summarised on one page.
A quote we particularly like from Jobs is:
"When you first start off trying to solve a problem, the first solutions you come up with are very complex, and most people stop there. But if you keep going , and live with the problem and peel more layers of the onion off, you can sometimes arrive at some very elegant and simple solutions.”
It is a bit like trying to draw a cat in one stroke. It takes some thinking about but in the end it can be quite elegant.
So, back to Kelly Johnson and KISS. We should keep this simple acronym always at the front of our minds. It will help us stay focussed (always a good thing), be clear and easy (really important in achieving high productivity) and make everything easy for people to understand (who can argue with that?).
The acronym is great because it is easy to remember. It has been played about with by many different authors with the following variations:
Keep It Short and Simple
Keep It Super Simple
Keep It Simple and Straightforward
Keep It Sweet and Simple
Keep It Simple, Silly
Keep It Short and Sweet
Keep It Simple and Smart
Keep It Simple, Sincere
It's important to choose an alternative that aligns with the tone and culture of the context in which it is used. The goal is to communicate the importance of simplicity and clarity without using language that may be perceived as negative or offensive.