Minting KISS

In 1960 the U.S. Navy coined the acronym KISS – Keep it simple, stupid. Social decorum aside (although kinder phrasings have been used), it is a principle that product development aspires to uphold.

We live with phenomenal complexity all around us that is largely invisible; think of your smartphone, for example. We’ve grown accustomed to things getting simpler and simpler. We yearn for it. So, for product managers, simplifying things is very much a worthy pursuit – understanding and applying become easier. But there is always a danger of oversimplifying, of transforming the original into a mismatched stand-in. If we were to mint KISS on one side of an actual coin, what could we put on the other to help us strike the right balance? How about the most-inquired-about quote according to Quote Investigator: Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.

The quote is widely attributed to Albert Einstein. It is a reminder that the goal is to simplify, instead of to dumb down. And there is a difference.

When looking at a complex problem or situation, try with visualising or modelling it and then test your representation with someone who isn’t in the know. What questions do they have? Are you getting mired in the detail when trying to explain? Is the core idea still there or has it disappeared?

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