The Law of Subtraction

The Problem: Excess Everything

Our organizations are more complicated and difficult to manage than ever. Our economy is more uncertain than ever. Our resources are scarcer than ever. There is endless choice and feature overkill in all but the best experiences. Everybody knows everything about us. The simple life is a thing of the past. Everywhere, there’s too much of the wrong stuff, and not enough of the right. The noise is deafening, the signal weak. Everything is too complicated and time-sucking.

Welcome to the age of excess everything.

Success in this new age looks different, and demands a new and singular skill: Subtraction.

Subtraction is defined simply as the art of removing anything excessive, confusing, wasteful, unnatural, hazardous, hard to use, or ugly—and the discipline to refrain from adding it in the first place.

The world’s most original innovators all know this: less is best. They know that by removing just the right things in just the right way, they can achieve the maximum effect through minimum means and deliver what everyone wants: a memorable and meaningful experience.

Subtraction is the scalpel of value—the method by which the simplest, most elegant solutions will be created, now and in the future. Subtraction is the creative skill needed to win in the age of excess everything, yet until now there was no simple, incisive guide for developing and deploying it.

Enter the “laws of subtraction,” six simple rules for winning in the age of excess everything, distilled from a six-year study of over 2000 ideas, and centering on a single yet powerful one:

When you remove just the right things in just the right way, something very good happens.

 

>>  Download The Laws of Subtraction here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matthew May

In addition to The Laws of Subtraction, Matthew E. May is the author of four previous manifestos. He is also the author of three awardwinning books: The Elegant Solution, In Pursuit of Elegance, and The Shibumi Strategy. A popular speaker, creativity coach, and close advisor on innovation and design strategy to companies such as ADP, Edmunds, Intuit, and Toyota, he is a regular contributor to the American Express OPEN Forum Idea Hub and the founder of Edit Innovation, an ideas agency based in Los Angeles.

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COMMENTS

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Recent Comments
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 
If someone wants entertainment they're going to the wrong place. Church is not a place for entertainment...or in my opinion a barrage of coffee and donuts. Why are churches today bringing the world INTO them? Then there's the thing with children...age appropriate??? These little guys can pick stuff up in service. Besides Jesus said Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Mt. 19:14.
 
— Laurie
 
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 

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