Can doing less lead to more?

Mathew E May in his S&B article Six Secrets to Doing Less focusses on an important issues of how to let go of what is not needed and may be eating up your energy and resources. He starts by quoting Jim Collin “A great piece of art is composed not just of what is in the final piece, but equally important, what is not.” This in a way sums up how removing the unnecessary can lend beauty to the creation and in our case Innovation. He mentions 6 things that can be done to do less along with fitting examples:

  1. What isn’t there can often trump what is.
  2. The simplest rules create the most effective experience.
  3. Limiting information engages the imagination.
  4. Creativity thrives under intelligent constraints.
  5. Break is the important part of breakthrough.
  6. Doing something isn’t always better than doing nothing.
I want to focus on the 3rd and 4th point – which says put boundaries, put limits and then play within those limits and puts it beautifully by saying frame is an important part of the picture. Here I am reminded of Sheena Iyenger’s Book Art of Choosing, where she mentions something in the context of no of choices that we enjoy. Based on many experiments, she says that we all like to have choices, we do not want things to be forced upon us, but given unlimited choices we can get lost and loose interest in the product. Take an example of a coffee shop that keeps on giving you the options and you need to answer 20 odd questions before you can place an order for a humble cup for refreshment. And look at the sprawling tea stalls across the roads that do not give you any choice unless you force them to make a special variant for you. Sheena says for the choices to be effective, the number of choices available should be limited.  The same can be applied to putting limitations and applying boundaries to innovation initiatives. Letting them be as open as possible seems romantic but is hardly practical and can lead to losses like loss of enthusiasm, time, resources and trust.
5th and 6th point can again be combined to say that you should let your mind stray away from the problem and not work on it constantly, taking a regular break and sometimes doing nothing can re-charge the batteries.

Anuradha Goyal