KISS (Keep it simple, stupid)
'Keep it simple, stupid' or KISS has become one of the most popular maxims of modern business and political leaders - though many struggle to live up to it. Adopted by the US Navy in 1960, KISS enshrines the principle that most systems work best if they are kept simple rather than made complicated - a philosophy with which few could disagree.
It has repeated resonance this week following the local UK and European elections which resulted in unprecedented success for UKIP and its controversial leader Nigel Farage. There has been endless analysis of the results and of UKIP’s approach but whether you loathe or admire Farage and what he stands for, a consensus view is emerging that UKIP’s success was largely down to his delivery of consistent, simple messages which struck a chord with a public crying out for authenticity and empathy.
Regardless of your political persuasion, it is difficult to dispute the effectiveness of 'plain speak' and undoubtedly communication gurus in all parties are looking to sharpen their own messaging in the wake of the latest poll results.
The KISS principle has been a hallmark of a number of successful political campaigns and also business strategies. Remember Clinton’s adaptation of KISS in his victorious Presidential election campaign of 1992 with the slogan “It’s the economy, stupid.” Ironically, Clinton’s winning message was originally intended as one of three slogans created solely for internal consumption in campaign headquarters until the Clinton camp realised the potential for it to be used more widely. It goes to prove that simple, powerful and unambiguous messaging is important for communicating with all stakeholders, from co-workers to shareholders and customers.
The late Apple CEO Steve Jobs was a master in the art of simple communication. He put other technology giants to shame with his ability to jettison ‘techno-babble’ and ‘sell the benefits’, brilliantly encapsulating the appeal of the first iPod by describing it as ‘1,000 songs in your pocket.’
Simplicity is important not just in a sales environment but also in product and service design and delivery. It should run throughout our organisations as a guiding principle, delivering the kind of joined-up intelligent customer service we know we need to provide.
Modern businesses are often in love with the complex, yet it is a sharp focus on getting the fundamentals right that results in superior performance.
His words chime with the beliefs of Kelly Johnson, an American aerospace engineer credited with first coining the KISS slogan when working on designs for US spy planes. He put the principle to the test by handing a limited set of tools to a team of design engineers and challenging them to design a jet aircraft that could be repaired by an average mechanic in the field under combat conditions with only a few tools. As a stress test, it worked brilliantly.
In our own world of customer service we must face the uncomfortable truth that by allowing jargon to dominate our communications we introduce needless complexity at the front line. Sectors such as banking, insurance, mobile and utilities all suffer from a lack of clarity across the communication supply chain, often resulting in so-called ‘failure demand’ in contact centres everywhere.
Simplification can help us attain the prize of reduced cost-to-serve, more satisfied customers, and of course a more engaged workforce better able to deal with productive enquiries. That is surely a prize worth pursuing.