KISS Is Just A New Turn On An Ancient Theorem

Most of us are familiar with the colloquial term “keep it simple stupid” or KISS. The phrase, often used derisively to pan a complex over-analysis of a problem, is part of the current idiom. The assumption that simplicity is the preferred route to successfully discovering the answer to a particularly complex problem is actually grounded on a 700-year old philosophical theorem: Occam’s Razor.

William of Occam was a 14th century Franciscan friar from England. His postulation, after intense study of the complex questions pertaining to religion, philosophy and science, was that the route to answering difficult problems lay in shaving away the complicated, dense alternative propositions and staying with the simplest, most obvious answer. The simplest choice amongst a menu of options was usually the best route to understanding and deciding a proper course to take in addressing a problem.

Occam’s Razor, or as we moderns say, “keep it simple stupid” is a rule that has proven timeless in the pursuit of answers to the great open questions of commerce, science and philosophy.

The great American designer, Raymond Loewe, was once asked: what was the perfect shape for design enhancement? Mr. Loewe, the designer of the Wurlitzer juke box, the Studebaker Avanti and dozens of other trend making consumer products thought for a moment and answered, “the egg”. He noted, “the egg is round, oval, oblong, is spherically variable from one end to the other, remarkably strong and yet fragile”. The simple shape of the egg had been invaluable to his creativity when addressing novel design ideas.

Note the lines in the world’s most classic automobiles. The 1963 Jaguar XKE is the only automobile included in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Collectors still marvel at the stunning profile of this car, the beauty of the low slung coach, and the simple, almost minimalist lines of its bonnet. Bugatti, Packard, Rolls Royce and Cord are just a few examples of rolling works of art that utilized an understated, simple but elegant approach to presenting timeless beauty in the form of the automobile.

The world is so full of simple solutions to problems that had been previously thought of as difficult that we now take them for granted. The zipper is an excellent example. The ability to quickly dress and undress, construct garments with utility and thrift and style cloth fabrics into more functional clothing designs was impeded for most of history by the question of closures. Bits of leather, strings, crude buttons, stays and various other primitive devices were used to close a jacket coat or pantaloons. Various closures were invented over the centuries, but the perfection and invention of the simple zipper revolutionized the art, and commerce of clothing production.

The Post-It Note, the paper clip, the staple gun, the Bic pen, fire, the wheel, nylon, champagne, chocolate, the printing press and myriad other inventions that seem so simple and logical today were conceived by “keeping it simple stupid”. Many a millionaire is rich not because of a new algorithm, or advanced spectrometer design, but because they have found a way to improve everyday life.

Occram’s Razor does apply equally to advanced scientific and industrial problems. It is utilized, usually unknowingly, to this day in the high tech world. However, for inventors and entrepreneurs seeking to market their idea, the simple assumption contained in this 700-year old postulation provides invaluable guidance. The answer you seek is probably near, almost certainly contained in your life’s experience.

My consulting firm, Duquesa Marketing, reviewed over 600 products, services and inventions last year. I remain amazed at the creativity extant today. Very few of the 600 will succeed commercially. Many variables effect potential product success in the market place. Nevertheless, fully a third of these reviews contained exciting creative and marketable elements. Invariably these strong candidates for market acceptance included the tenets of Occam’s Razor. They provided simple, needed features and/or benefits that address needs.

Please feel free to contact me to discuss the article or a project of interest to you. I am a serial-entrepreneur and love to share creative juices with like- minded inventors. Geoff Ficke, 859-567-1609, , .

Author's Bio: 

Geoff Ficke has been a serial entrepreneur for almost 50 years. As a small boy, earning his spending money doing odd jobs in the neighborhood, he learned the value of selling himself, offering service and value for money.

After putting himself through the University of Kentucky (B.A. Broadcast Journalism, 1969) and serving in the United States Marine Corp, Mr. Ficke commenced a career in the cosmetic industry. After rising to National Sales Manager for Vidal Sassoon Hair Care at age 28, he then launched a number of ventures, including Rubigo Cosmetics, Parfums Pierre Wulff Paris, Le Bain Couture and Fashion Fragrance.

Geoff Ficke and his consulting firm, Duquesa Marketing, Inc. ( has assisted businesses large and small, domestic and international, entrepreneurs, inventors and students in new product development, capital formation, licensing, marketing, sales and business plans and successful implementation of his customized strategies. He is a Senior Fellow at the Page Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, Business School, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio.