In the software engineering world, the KISS principle is widely known. Actually, it comes from the U.S. Navy, and was coined by Engineer Kelly Johnson. It’s an acronym that stands for “Keep it simple, stupid!”. The idea behind it is to keep things as simple as possible, for as long as possible. This principle applies to many things in life, including Projects, Personal Organization, Processes, and Systems.
Simplicity should be a key goal when designing systems of all sorts. As Leonardo Da Vinci beautifully put it:
Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication — Leonardo Da Vinci
This content is part of the Knowledge Worker Kit.
Benefits of embracing the KISS Principle
- Increased Efficiency: streamlining processes leads to faster task completion.
- Enhanced Understanding: clear communication fosters better comprehension.
- Reduced Errors: simplicity minimizes the likelihood of mistakes.
- Improved Collaboration: simple systems are more accessible to team members.
Simply put: less is more.
Applying the KISS principle to Knowledge Work
Clarity in Communication
Knowledge workers often find themselves in situations where complex concepts need to be conveyed clearly. Applying the KISS principle to communication ensures that your message is concise, direct, and easily understandable.
Knowledge work involves numerous processes, from project management to problem-solving. The KISS principle advocates for streamlining these processes, focusing on the essential steps and eliminating unnecessary complications. This not only enhances efficiency but also reduces the chances of errors.
Simplicity in decision-making is another facet of the KISS principle. When faced with complex choices, knowledge workers can benefit from breaking down decisions into simpler components. This makes it easier to weigh options, leading to more informed and efficient decision-making.
Practical Tips for applying the KISS principle
- Prioritize information: focus on the most critical/important/useful information first
- Simplify the language: avoid jargon and be straightforward
- Eliminate redundancy
- Focus on the essential
- Simplify iteratively: regularly review and simplify whenever possible
In addition, here are useful questions to ask in order to apply this principle:
- Do we really need to do that?
- Can we avoid this?
- Is it possible to remove or ignore that?
- How could we simplify this?
- What’s the least we can do to achieve our goal?
- Would skipping this part cause immediate/important issues?
I’ll refer times to the KISS principle in the Knowledge Worker Kit. It’s one of the core principles that all Knowledge workers should embrace and live by. It’s a useful and powerful ally. Keep it Simple, and success will follow.
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The KISS principle is one of many concepts that we explore in the Knowledge Worker Kit. Join us!
You can also check out my various products: Obsidian Starter Kit, the Obsidian Starter Course, the PKM Library, a PKM coaching session with me, my collection of books about software development and the IT Concepts Wall 🔥.
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Hello everyone! I'm Sébastien Dubois (you can follow me on Twitter 🐦).
I'm an author, founder, and CTO. I write books and articles about software development & IT, personal knowledge management, personal organization, and productivity. I also craft lovely digital products 🚀
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