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KISS your way to career success

By Sarah Curnow Sarah Curnow

Many successful entrepreneurs, the household name kind, will tell you that to succeed; you don’t need education, and you don’t need money – you just need common sense.

In fact, Thomas Edison, the man who invented the electric lightbulb once said: “The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are, first, hard work; second, stick-to-itiveness; third, common sense.”

It is this third essential of common sense that often gets lost in application. Big ideas, complex solutions, and endless fancy words to showcase our intelligence are many examples of why. I’m not suggesting that these methods will fail because we do sometimes need big ideas. The creation of an electric light bulb — was, in itself, a big idea, but perhaps to yield results, we need to look more often at simple ideas that have proven to work. Ideas that have clear intentions, and doable goals. Ideas that have staying power.

Common sense is also an excellent BS detector. If a problem can be solved simply and with ease, then it begs to question the purpose of establishing complex solutions.

Here’s the thing. In the workforce, your employer wants things to get done. Simple. They don’t often care about your approach; the fancy powerpoint slides you construct or the roadblocks you have to overcome, they just want it done. Your performance will be measured based on the outcomes you deliver and rarely on the road you traveled to get there.

So with a little common sense and keeping things simple you can move at a much faster pace. The modern day attempt to problem solve with creative flair, and over the top solutions defy a well-known, reliable business practice. Heard of the KISS principle? Time to get acquainted. In 1960 the US Navy established a design principle called “KISS,” which is an acronym for “keep it simple, stupid.” The KISS principle bases itself on the belief that most systems work best if they’re kept simple rather than made complicated. Therefore, simplicity should be a key goal in design, avoiding any unnecessary complexity. Young talent and future leaders should take note. Understanding this concept is important because it’s transferable to how they can approach their career.

At twenty-one, I was in my first management position, I was shy, my confidence was sporadic, but I passionately wanted to develop my skills. I’d been attending management meetings and sitting through them in silence, fearful I didn’t have anything of value to contribute. During this time then CEO of St George Bank, Gail Kelly was in town for a leadership forum, and she gave me this practical and useful advice.

“Every voice matters. Common sense will remind you that you have earned your place at the table. Before every meeting prepare by writing one question down on a piece of paper. Then in every meeting ask the question – even if your nervous and it doesn’t come out perfectly. Use your voice and gradually people will expect to hear from you and start asking for your opinion.”

This piece of advice is now thirteen years old. It doesn’t date, and it positively works. Plus universities and schools are not teaching young talent these common sense approaches for the workforce but when put to practice they do make a difference.

Authors Irene Etzkorn and Alan Siegel of Simple: Conquering the Crisis of Complexity highlight Steve Jobs as a champion of simplicity. “While other companies complicated their gadgets with proliferating bells and whistles, Apple succeeded by anticipating users’ needs through streamlining and paring down — one button replacing three, and easy-to-understand icons in place of techie jargon.”

Want to find your edge in a competitive market? Apply a common sense simplistic approach to your work because it truly trumps complexity.


Sarah Curnow

Sarah Curnow

Sarah Curnow, 34 is the Founder of Young Einsteins and an experienced banking executive. Some of her career achievements include becoming a Bank Manager at 21, leading a small sales team on the trading floor of Australia’s largest Bank at 28 to most recently running a $200m business with balance sheet assets of more than $12bn. With years of practice in managing millennials, she specializes in mentoring those interested in developing their leadership and sales abilities.

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