Working on an idea? KISS

The keep-it-simple-stupid principle works wonders in business

It’s always more meaningful to learn a lesson from experience. Whenever you start something new, you’re bound to make at least a few mistakes, and as long as you learn from them, then they can be transformative and position you for future success.

I speak from experience. When I decided to launch my own company six years ago, one of the biggest challenges was what to name it. In my mind, the name was critical to defining the mission of the company and its future success. I sought input from professionals I respected in the community and got all sorts of different answers. Some people told me that my name was my brand and I should keep it simple. Others advised that by using my own name I was limiting myself to just New Hampshire, and to appeal to a broader audience, I needed something more sophisticated. Thus was born FocusFirst Communications. I thought I was clever tying the words Focus and First together.

FocusFirst assisted clients in focusing on what they wanted to communicate and then customizing a plan to elevate their visibility. Sounded great at the time — the work we did received accolades — but the name wasn’t memorable. I would go to events and the nametag waiting for me at the table would be “First Focus,” “Focusing First,” “First Communications,” “Focus Media.” You get the drift. Everyone kept getting the name mixed up.

The demise of the FocusFirst name ironically came about because of a wonderful surprise. We had been doing work on a statewide initiative to educate the public about the dangers of texting and driving and a new law that was to go into effect. I worked with a team to produce a series of public service announcements showing the real-world impact and deadly consequences of distracted driving.

To ensure the pieces were meaningful and authentic, we met with Granite Staters who had needlessly suffered because of someone else’s selfish act of using a cell phone behind the wheel and crashing into an innocent party. Those PSAs won some awards and, more importantly, educated the public and hopefully saved lives.

Because of that work, I was asked to attend an event where I received a surprise, special commendation. It was so meaningful, but the commendation was for “First Focus,” not “FocusFirst.” Looking back, it was such an easy mix-up because it was a terrible name. After that event, I went to the Secretary of State’s office to make a change.

There is a philosophy that I now subscribe to called KISS. Not to be mistaken for the rock band, KISS doesn’t advocate for rockin’ and rollin’ all night long, but stands for Keep It Simple, Stupid. It’s great advice.

The backronym appears to have been coined by Kelly Johnson, an aeronautical innovator at Lockheed who helped design over 40 aircrafts. I had never heard of him or his impressive achievements, but in doing research for this piece, learned that he was self-made, the son of immigrants who worked himself through college during the Great Depression with dreams of designing planes. He won every major aviation design award and the highest civilian honors of the U.S. government.

One of his mottos, “Keep it simple, stupid — KISS,” was a constant reminder to his team. Part of his reasoning was because the planes designed during World War II were to be used in the combat arena and it was critical that they could be repaired by an average mechanic
under combat conditions with basic tools.

The keeping-it-simple philosophy is not necessarily a new one. Occam’s razor, a problem-solving principle stated in the 14th century, says that the simplest solution tends to be the correct one. I have taken that philosophy to heart and since changed the name of my company to Tiffany Eddy & Associates. I haven’t had an issue with anyone getting the name wrong since.

Whether you’re building a brand, preparing a presentation, writing a press release or whatever you are looking to achieve, keep it simple. Don’t add unnecessary elements that will only detract from your message. You can always build off a good foundation. In the words of Shakespeare, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” And with that, I will take my cue and leave you with this KISS.

Tiffany Eddy, a former broadcast journalist, owns Tiffany Eddy & Associates, a communications firm. She can be reached at Tiffany@TiffanyEddy.com.

Categories: Business Advice

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