K.I.S.S. (Redux)


I learned this acronym not long after I started working in the manufacturing industry about ten years ago.  The context in which I heard it applied was during a meeting with a scientist, a couple of engineers and manufacturing manager talking about a design for a custom system we were building a proposal for.

K.I.S.S.:  “Keep It Simple, Stupid.”

I would have thought this phrase might apply to the likes of someone like Sir Jonathan Ive, the re-known design chief at Apple, Inc.  Then again, though I’ve not heard him speak, Ive is likely a bit too witty to use this sort of catchy (if dated) quip.  “He’s known for explaining his design philosophy in trippy, zenlike soundbites”, according to Macworld, not for being trite.

The K.I.S.S. acronym actually (miraculously, some might say), stemmed from the United States Navy in 1960.  Or more specifically, Mr. Johnson, a Lockheed engineer designing a plane for the government.

According to Wikipedia, the reference originated thus:  “The [K.I.S.S.] principle is best exemplified by the story of Johnson handing a team of design engineers a handful of tools, with the challenge that the jet aircraft they were designing must be repairable by an average mechanic in the field under combat conditions with only these tools. Hence, the “stupid” refers to the relationship between the way things break and the sophistication available to repair them.”

I would offer that this approach is not just applicable in building equipment, but also a good way of looking at any challenge in life. It’s about taking the shortest, realistic path to coping and accepting the situation.

At its core, the idea of not over-thinking things is a good way of looking at life and the situations and circumstances that inevitably come up that we’re challenged by, etc.  I would suggest that in fact, your level of satisfaction with things and related happiness are directly linked to this concept.

At any given moment, when you’re considering the task at hand, or debriefing on an event (especially if you had any level of emotion invested in it) or thinking about something important you need to say to your co-worker, your kid, your partner, keep it simple.

Direct, thoughtful assessment and communication is essential. You should of course include as much detail as necessary, but no MORE than required. The main thing is, keep it simple.  Here’s a real-life, recent example.

I had a situation last week that I was directly involved in, a meeting, that I had high hopes for. I had a lot of emotion wrapped up in the outcome, nebular as that outcome was in my mind. There were a lot of players involved, and I could only partially effect how things ended up. When the meeting was over, I got the vague sense that people didn’t leave the gathering feeling the way I’d hoped.

But I’d done my best in preparation for the meeting and orchestrated the event as best I could, given my limited power to do so. A while after things finished up, I was thinking about how it’d gone with only modest satisfaction. It should have gone better, I thought.

Then I realized (and accepted) that I did the best I could and after all, I only had a partial role in a positive outcome.  “It is so; it cannot be otherwise” I recalled from a famous quotation I am fond of. And that was it. I was able to move on.

I kept it simple.  You might also say I let myself off the hook.  That’s fine. But I was able to move on and close the matter in my head.

When you consider any event your involved in or responsible for any conversation, the details of any particular effort you’ve made, be honest, be complete, but also be balanced in your critique.

Keep it simple.  Keep your assessment concise and to the point. Look at the bright side.  And be sure you consider the positives. Those positives, even if minor, should be allowed to carry the day.  It’s really quite simple.


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