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What KISS Really Means

        posted by , January 07, 2013

The next time your coworkers come up with a overly complex plan just tell them to KISS it.

KISS stands for keep it simple stupid. It's a principle of business, technology and engineering that says the simplest solution to any problem is best.

KISS was first coined by prolific aircraft engineer Kelly Johnson at Lockheed in the 1950s. Johnson was a tough boss and talented engineer. He was widely considered a brilliant manager who delivered complex aerospace projects on time.

Johnson keep organizations, projects, processes and engineering designs as simple as possible.

In one well known example, Johnson dumped a dozen hand tools on the table in a design meeting. He told the room full of aerospace engineers that all maintenance on their new aircraft had to be possible with a handful of tools.

Politically Correct Variations

KISS is a popular business and technology concept. In many organizations, you're not really supposed to call anything stupid.

As a result, various politically correct variations of KISS have sprung up.

Keep It Simple Sir was the first. However, this also isn't politically correct enough for some who'd prefer Keep It Simple Ma'am.

A completely politically correct variation is Keep It Super Simple. Although this looses the bite of the original phrase.

Equivalent Principles

The KISS principle is nothing new (it has been around in one form or another for thousands of years). It's often been compared to the following:

Among competing hypotheses, the one that makes the fewest assumptions should be selected.
~ Occam's Razor

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
~ Leonardo da Vinci

It seems that perfection is reached not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.
~ Antoine de Saint Exupéry

Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.
~ Einstein

How To Use KISS

KISS is a key concept for innovation and decision making.

In technology, it's used to find elegant designs and architectures.

In business, it's used to validate strategy and planning.

KISS is also used to design organizations and processes for efficiency. Simple processes reduce human error. If you can maintain an aircraft with 12 tools instead of 1200 tools — you're less likely to make mistakes.

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