K.I.S.S., Mr. Einstein, but why?

March 11, 2008 § 1 Comment

When it comes to writing, everyone’s favorite acronym is K.I.S.S. – Keep It Simple, Stupid. Sage advice, but have you ever asked why? Well here’s another acronym for you: S.I.S. – Simple Ideas Succeed.

I often work with technology companies where the product or service is likely to be anything but simple. The desire to explain and build logical chains from features to benefits often eclipses the ability for an idea to get attention. Think about Albert Einstein for a second. Chances are E = mc2 comes to mind before the words “Theory of Relativity” jump into your head. And unless you happen to be a physicist your thoughts are more likely to run to an image of the frazzled-haired genius and not to the concept of energy-mass equivalence.

Does E = mc2 really tell me anything about physics or the nature of the universe? Not really. Not on its own. Not to the uninitiated, or at least not without a good hour spent watching a PBS special, but it is has become a familiar surrogate for a complex idea. The symbol spreads farther and more easily than the underlying complex theory. Thus I give you the sibling acronym, part 2: S.I.S. – Symbols for (complex) Ideas Spread.

Yes, I’m torturing an acronym, but if you want your idea to spread you’ve got to make it portable, and simple ideas are easier to carry around. If the idea can’t be easily reduced to a simple phrase, then roll up your sleeves and keep trying. Look for a surrogate, or an icon that can be invested with meaning. You’ve got to do the work so that the job of spreading your idea, the job you are asking your customers, partners and prospects to do for you, is as easy as possible. That leads to the final sibling acronym for the day: S.I.S. – Simplicity Isn’t Simple.

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§ One Response to K.I.S.S., Mr. Einstein, but why?

  • Amen. It seems that this concept can be learned and relearned many times over for many contexts. I wonder how many iterations of simplification Einstein went through before finalizing his famous equation.

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