KISS – as in Keep It Simple ….

We’ve all heard of the KISS principle – Keep It Simple Stupid. Wikipedia says it was a design principle noted by the US Navy in 1960 but there are examples going back way further than that.

Model T Ford
The original ‘keep it simple’

Henry Ford’s first production car was available in any colour you like, so long as it was black A classic example of simplicity. He didn’t want to complicate his production process by having to cater for multiple colours.

Customer requirements

Now there will be some people reading this blog that say we need to give customers choice, because that’s what they are demanding. After all, if you go to buy any car today you will be offered a range of colours, trim levels, engine sizes, optional extras etc. etc. In fact, the concept of a standard production car doesn’t really exist anymore. It’s not what people want, is it?

Well, all this complexity comes at a price. In the age of automation a lot of the complexity is handled by the manufacturing systems ensuring the right colour accessories are in the right place on the production line to match the chosen colour scheme. But that makes the production systems more complex. More complex to design, more complex to build and more complex to test. And complexity means cost.

An example of simplicity

Let’s bring it back to a practical example. I’m launching a new business with my wife. Its called Motorhome Heaven and we will be hiring out a fleet of brand new motorhomes for people to take touring holidays in the UK and Europe. I say a fleet because that is the longer term plan, but we are starting with two, a 2-4 berth model and a 4-6 berth model.

Two different styles to target two different market segments. As the fleet grows, we will buy more of those two models so spares and maintenance are simpler. They are both based on the same Fiat engine, cab and chassis.

We are equipping the motorhomes to a high standard. But it’s a common standard. The same crockery, pots and pans, cutlery, linen packs etc. etc. We will have two of everything for both motorhomes, plus spares to cater for breakages.

Why? For simplicity. No chance of putting the wrong items in the wrong van. No having to replace the entire contents of a van because something got broken and is no linger in production. We simply swap things out from the spares, no matter which van it was on.

It’s simpler on turn around day too. Rather than worrying if the contents are clean enough for the next hirers, we swap them out for a complete set that we know is clean enough. We can check and clean (if necessary) the incoming set at our leisure, not during the short turnaround window between hires.

Optional extras are kept to a minimum and only reflect genuine differences in needs with a cost implication such as UK vs European insurance.

Where ever possible we are keeping it as simple as possible to run the business, and as simple as possible for our customers to buy from us.

Steve Job’s ‘simple stick’

I’m half way through reading a book at the moment. It’s called Insanely Simple – The Obsession That Drives Apple’s Success by Ken Segall. It’s all about Steve Job’s obsession with simplicity. In it, Ken describes what Steve did when he came across unnecessary complexity within Apple. He would wield his simple stick. In one example a new version of a software product was being proposed adding colour functionality to an existing product line. The proposal was for two products and two price points, one with colour and one without. But this meant double the advertising, double the merchandising, double the training etc. It meant complexity. So Steve hit it with the simple stick. One product including colour. Keep it simple, end of story.

Choice adds complexity and makes decisions harder

Steve Jobs didn’t want his customers agonising over whether to pay the extra for the colour version or make do. He didn’t want his sales teams learning different product sets and pricing levels. But most of all, he didn’t want his customers to be confused or put off from buying by the complexity.

Complexity through choice
Sweet complexity

Not sure what I mean? Give a child a £1 bag of sweets that you know they like and they will be delighted and grateful. Take a child into a sweetshop full of all their favourite sweets and tell them they can spend that £1 on whatever they want and you are in for a long afternoon. Why? Because they have to make a decision or maybe several decisions. I can have 1 of those and 2 of those. Or I could have 2 of those and three of something else. Decisions, Decisions.

It’s the same when you go out to dinner and the menu is extensive. By the time you’ve all read and chosen what you want you’ve probably wasted a third of the evening. And then the waiter apologises because that item is out of stock so you have to choose again because they can’t keep a lot of everything for such a diverse, extensive menu.

Your customers are no different. Give them too much choice and making a decision becomes bewildering or just plain hard. And when something is hard, people walk away. Rather than make a decision about what to buy, they make the decision not to buy.

Complexity in what we do

We had a talk at one of the Business Hubs I’m a member of recently on the subject of the apps we use in our business. The breadth of apps and the functionality available is incredible. But the thing that struck me most was that with each app we add to our PC or phone, we are adding complexity. We try to do things quicker, more fancy, more ingeniously. And each step adds complexity. More passwords to remember. More steps in the process. More complexity.

As many of you know, I help my clients make productive online connections to grow their business through the use of social media in general and LinkedIn in particular. I see a lot of other coaches introducing complexity to what they recommend clients do. Try this trick or that feature – you might get an edge.

You might, for a while until LinkedIn or Facebook or Google changes again. And the one thing that is constant with social media is change! You might until you trip over yourself because of all the interactions. You might until you miss out a step because it was one of so many little tricks and tips you use.

In my experience, people buy from people. People they know, like and trust. People they have built a relationship with because they are authentic, giving of themselves and their knowledge. Personal, authentic, credible. Simple.

Wooden stick isolated on white backgroundSo why not apply the ‘Keep it Simple Stick’ to your business. Rid yourself of complexity and simplify things for your customers.

If you’d like to have a chat about how I can help you keep things simple in your use of LinkedIn and social media, click on the button below to book a free call. It’s as simple as that.

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