“Very often, people confuse simple with simplistic. The nuance is lost on most.” – Clement Mok, Chief Creative Officer, Sapient We’ve all heard THIS acronym, K.I.S.S. – Keep it Simple, Stupid! While I prefer, Keep it Splendidly Simple; the point is the same. Make it simple! All of us have heard the phrase. All of us nervously laugh and knowingly nod our heads when we hear it. All too often we don’t follow this sage advice. We’ve all heard the joke that a consultant is someone who will tell you about how to design, build and sell a watch, when all you wanted to know was the time. We are stereotyped often as people who like to make things more complicated, if for no other reason, than to justify our fee. While I don’t completely agree with the stereotype, as is usually true with these things, it contains a grain of truth. I believe we can serve both ourselves and our clients better if we remember to keep our proposals, project plans, reports and other services more elegant (defined in my dictionary as, “ingeniously simple and pleasing, or excellent”), or simple. Here are six reasons why we should strive to make simple one of the criteria for our work products: 1. Simple reduces errors. The more complex something becomes, the easier it is to make mistakes. Want your client to implement your 18-step model? How likely will they be able to successfully navigate each step without errors or frustration? Not very likely. Which is of the following is more likely to succeed? A nine-page booklet of steps to follow in using the new software, or a concise job aid, that gives 80% of the users all the detail they’ll ever need, in a more usable format? (Even if you do need to provide the in-depth handbook, perhaps you need to write the job aid too!) When we design simple, elegant solutions, the error rate drops. 2. Simple is motivating. Simple plans give people confidence that they can succeed. When people understand the four key points in your presentation, they are more motivated to apply them, because they feel like they have a fighting chance of success. 3. Simple is more effective. People are bright, but people have many things on their mind. When presenting findings to clients, we often have a 100 page report and a one page executive summary. The one page is probably too high an overview to lead to effective decisions, and how many people will actually read your 100 page report? (When was the last time you read a 100 page report?). What clients need from us is the ability not only to analyze, or come up with the reams of data, but also the ability to synthesize, or draw together the key elements in new and all encompassing ways. A simpler report can lead us to that. The simpler, five-pager, will force you to synthesize and provide the client with something much more valuable than the briefcase breaker. 4. Simple saves time. This one is easy. It is common sense. When we make things simpler, we save time for the client (and ourselves in the long run). Enough said. 5. Simple brings focus. Having one clear goal is easier for people to follow, than knowing the Nine Strategic Initiatives of the First Half of the Year. One is motivating, the other a hopeless clutter for the mind. I recently read, “When everything is important, nothing is.”. It hit home and helped my perspective about keeping it simple. If we want to stay focused, we have to keep it simple. 6. Simple is easier to sell. Being simple in our approach does not mean “quick and dirty”, or incomplete. Remember that simple and elegant can be synonyms. Would you rather buy an elegant, simple approach, or something very detailed and elaborate? Think about your answer before you design your next consulting engagement. A short comment in a recent Leadership Team meeting I was facilitating nudged me to write this. They were discussing a vision for their organization, and someone was talking about keeping things simple. They stated it as, “Sealed with a KISS”. I’ve decided to use that a criteria for all of our client work, and for internal efforts as well (even my personal projects!). Hopefully this piece has given you pause to think about this concept, and accept my premise. My next article will focus on how to keep or make things simpler, but including those ideas now might clutter your mind. Until then, try “sealing things with a KISS”.