Why is it that simple is so incredibly complex?

You’ve probably heard the phrase: “Keep it simple stupid” or “KISS”.

There’s been books and classes and conferences and the like all about the simple topic of simplicity. But isn’t it so much easier said than done? Just the simple fact that there has to be a phrase dedicated to reminding people of the idea sheds some light on just how COMPLEX it keeping it simple can actually be.  

You’ve probably experienced this irony in action just as I have. In most tasks it is much much easier to add than subtract. Think of these examples:

You’re rewritting your resume – how painful is it to delete a single bullet point?  You’re building a website – isn’t it easier to justify to yourself that adding more content is better than reducing? You’re a service business – you want to say you’re pretty good at everything because that’s the only way to attract customers, right? 

So why exactly is simple so complex? I believe it’s because trimming down options, cutting distractions and taking a stand creates doubt and concern that you’ve made the right decision. Yet being disciplined enough to keep things simple is exactly what makes some companies more successful than others.

One example comes to mind: Chipotle Grill. How many main items do they have on their entire menu? Maybe 6 or 7 including the meat options. Yet Chipotle’s growth rate over the last year was staggering compared to the industry average. Keeping it simple has allowed them to focus on what really matters to their brand – quality food, transparent and local sourcing, and a business model that keeps the brand promise strong.

I hate to always use Apple as a gold-standard example, but here again Apple is a leader in simplicity. They say very little and their message is simple, yet that is why it is so profound.

Simplicity. It is hard to do, but it is what seperates those who are great from all the rest. On my (probably too long) New Year’s Resolution list this year will be continuing to learn how to be confident in keeping things simple. Will that be part of yours? 

KISS – Keep it simple….smart!


About mjkurb

Michael is the Manager of Business Development at Element 79, a full-service advertising agency in Chicago, Illinois, and recent graduate of the Master's program at Northwestern University - Medill School - Integrated Marketing Communicaitons. Running two family businesses - learned to constantly listen and be aware of customer's needs and behaviors. Master's degree Northwestern University | Medill IMC - learned to better understand marketing insight, strategy and measurement. Rest of life - learned that working harder, smarter and faster than others is how you stay one step ahead.
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