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.
(An excerpt from an article in Strategy + business by Matthew E. May).
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. These six rules help guide that discipline.
1. What isn’t there can often trump what is. As Jim Collins wrote in a 2003USA 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, complete, and certain. But the most engaging ideas are often none of those things.
4. Creativity thrives under intelligent constraints. As writer, art critic, and essayist G.K. 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. Neuroscience now confirms that the ability to engineer creative breakthroughs indeed hinges on the capacity to synthesize and make connections between seemingly disparate things. A key ingredient is a quiet mind, severed for a time from the problem at hand.
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.
- How To Create A Fearless, Insanely Productive Company Culture (businessinsider.com)
- The Laws of Subtraction – Inserting Space Between the Notes of Your Life (soulballast.wordpress.com)
- Creating Innovation Value: Four Key Drivers to Success (innovationmanagement.se)
- Making Ideation a Part of the ‘Innovation Project Machine’ (innovationmanagement.se)
- Reducing Confusion, Promoting Diffusion (innovationmanagement.se)
- IE. – Innovation Enterprise Launch Awards to Celebrate FP&A Excellence (prweb.com)