The Art of Subtraction

The Art of Subtraction

The tendency of our lives, businesses, art, is to keep adding: more furniture, clothes, gadgets, tasks, appointments, features to websites and apps, words to our writing.
Continual addition isn’t sustainable or desirable in life.

Recently I read a very good article in a business magazine about secrets to doing less, written by Matthew E May. It was all about innovation strategies and change management. After reading the article I concluded that the best innovation strategies are rooted in the art of subtraction.

Let us try to understand why the best innovation strategies are rooted in the art of subtraction??

In the pursuit of innovation, leaders are often faced with three critical decisions: 

  • what to follow versus what to ignore, 
  • what to leave in versus what to leave out, and 
  • what to do versus what not to do. 

Many of the most original innovators tend to focus far more on the second half of each choice. They adopt a “less is best” approach to innovation, removing just the right things in just the right way in order to achieve the maximum effect through minimum means and deliver what everyone wants: a memorable and meaningful experience. 

It’s the art of subtraction, defined simply as the process of removing anything excessive, confusing, wasteful, hazardous, or hard to use–and perhaps building the discipline to refrain from adding it in the first place. 

To master the Art of Subtraction, these six rules can help and guide us:-

1.What isn’t there can often trump what is.

 As Jim Collins wrote in a 2003 USA Today article, “A great piece of art is composed not just of what is in the final piece, but equally important, what is not.” 

2. The simplest rules create the most effective experience. 

Order and engagement might best be achieved not through rigid hierarchy and central controls, but through one or two vital agreements, often implicit, that everyone understands and is accountable for, yet that are left open to individual interpretation and variation. The limits are set by social context. 

3. Limiting information engages the imagination

Conventional wisdom says that to be successful, an idea must be concrete, completeand certain. But the most engaging ideas are often none of those things. 

Specifics draw people in. But give too many and they turn their attention elsewhere.

4. Creativity thrives under intelligent constraints

As writer, art critic, and essayist GK. Chesterton once claimed, “Art consists of limitation. The most beautiful part of every picture is the frame.” 

5. Break is the important part of breakthrough. Innovation often demands a break with convention. 

6. Doing something isn’t always better than doing nothing

Innovation often demands taking a break from the rigors of work. A key ingredient is a quiet mind, severed for a time from the problem at hand. 

Meditation-a practice that eliminates distraction and clears the mind-is an effective way to enhance self-awareness, focus, and attention, and to prime your brain for achieving creative insights. 

Business leaders today face endless choice and feature overkill. They need to cut through the noise, using the art of subtraction to reveal the quiet truth. These six rules point to a single, powerful idea for achieving simplicity in any innovative effort: When you remove just the right things in just the right way, good things happen.


Published by DR. TRILOK SHARMA

I have traveled a long way towards the final destination of life. Many times I took a wrong turn on the road and spend a lot of precious time to come back on main road. Many times, I helped & supported the people who did not deserve my attention, and unknowingly ignored the ones who cared for me. Through this site, I want to put some traffic signs on the route of life to help those who are willing not to make similar mistakes that I did.

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