The KISS Effect

Have you been confused with long winding vision statements that are difficult to comprehend? Have you found yourself struggling to align with the BIG picture that your boss / manager paints about the END GOAL of your project / program / initiative?

I always struggled with the answer till that Friday afternoon….

Picture this – A lazy Friday afternoon, when all you want to do is “head home”. An email pops up from my then manager, Krish, calling for a meeting in the afternoon to discuss the “Knowledge Mgmt” initiative.

“Another knowledge management initiative, what a waste of time” – I thought

The meeting at 4 PM, however, will be etched in my memory throughout my life….

Krish articulated the vision of “Knowledge Management”- in simple and easy to understand terms – equating it to “people development”, and laid out 4 facets of personality that he saw must be developed in every individual – domain, process, technology and leadership. He went on to articulate how he saw the four facets being honed through the initiative that we are going to be part of.

He spoke with unwavering conviction – the vision vivid, yet simple.

By the end of the meeting, he had us “hooked on” to the initiative. He had made us “SEE” the end goal – through simple, real life examples. Thus was born the “People Development” initiative for the account – which went on to win 2 consecutive Excellence awards @ the company level, and almost filed a patent for the unique concept that had been developed. The framework that was developed became a unique selling proposition for the account and the Industry group in general, and was part of a “showcase” in every client visit in the future.

Lesson learnt – Leaders are almost always great simplifiers… they can cut through the clutter and can explain their vision in vivid, yet simple terms. Keep It Simple, Silly (KISS) is what they use to drive daily behaviors and choices among competing alternatives.

They believe firmly in what  Calvin aptly described – “As far as I’m concerned, if something is so complicated that you can’t explain it in 10 seconds, then it’s probably not worth knowing anyway“ 

 For the social networking enthusiasts, another example makes a case to the point – FACEBOOK. When “The facebook” (as it was called then)  was launched by Mark Zuckerberg and his friends in Feb 2004, it was not the first social network explicitly targeted at college students. The first such site was Club Nexus, created by a Turkish doctoral student named Orkut Buyukkoktten. (He joined Google later, and went onto create Orkut). The site had several features, and frankly as per some “It was too complicated”. Also, there were Friendster and MySpace, which were dominant social networks at that time, both having almost  a million members.

What differentiated FACEBOOK, was its simplicity!  Its goal was simple, yet profound – Zuckerberg had created a basic communications tool so “you could create your profile and add friends” , thereby helping you to keep track of your college mates and know what was going on with them.

It helped you STAY CONNECTED, and was FUN!

Making “Thefacebook” FUN was more important to Zuckerberg than business. It was this simple statement that would reverberate through the initial days of “Thefacebook”, and help create its identity.  It was this simple vision of creating an open culture where people could have FUN that made Zuckerberg take some important decisions during the initial years of FACEBOOK- such as

  • NOT placing unnecessary ads to make revenue – his differences with Saverin on this issue is well documented.
  • Ensuring that simple basic needs are met – better response time was more important  than cluttered functionality…

 The rest, as we all know, is history….

 The KISS principle helps a  leader keep the visions and priorities simple, yet compelling – without any fancy buzzwords and long winding sentences.

 Result : Credible leadership & team aligned to the vision to the CORE. For a leader, a team fully aligned to the end goal is half the job done!


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