Addition by Subtraction

When you are asked to improve something, how often do you think about additions? For home renovation, isn’t it always what you can add? Or for business brainstorming sessions, which new projects to take on?

But there is a case to be made for taking away. Sometimes we can do better by removing, streamlining and simplifying.

That is the premise of the Hidden Brain podcast “Do Less” (https://hiddenbrain.org/podcast/do-less/). Host Shankar Vedantam talks to Leidy Klotz, author of Subtract: The Untapped Science of Less and a professor at the University of Virginia who studies the science of design: “how we transform things from how they are to how we want them to be.”

Dr. Klotz uses himself as a good example for how he derived the “science of less.” During his engineering studies, he was preparing for a critical exam in a mechanics class, in which he had a C average. Another poor performance, and it would be time to find a different major. But instead of trying to memorize a complete set of formulas, he removed the clutter, concentrating on Newton’s second law of motion and the formula F=MA, figuring everything else could be derived from that. This simplified strategy earned him the highest grade in the class.

Sometimes the easy way really is the best way, especially in the long run. For more examples, check out this podcast.

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