If You Can Subtract, You Can Innovate!

By Shlomo  Maital   


Innovation is breaking the rules.   But often, the rules most rewarding to break are unwritten ones, ones we assume are true in our heads, ones we never challenge.

 One such rule: “Innovation is about addition” – adding new features onto old things.   Nothing could be more wrong.

   Innovation is about subtraction.  Taking things away. Yet we use addition far more often than we use subtraction, in creative endeavours.

   Here are some examples, drawn from Ruth Blatt’s wonderful blog in Forbes magazine (Dec. 26/2013). 

  *  Led Zeppelin made an album, with no writing on the cover. Nothing, no band name, nothing.  It was their best-selling album (Led Zeppelin IV).  And they did it by subtracting.

* Composer John Cage wrote a piece called 4’ 33”,  a four-minute 33-second piece in which a full orchestra sits down..and remains in perfect silence for over four minutes.  A concert, minus the music.  Insulting? Ridiculous?  Usually, the orchestra gets strong applause when they stand up and take a bow.

* In 1966 the Beatles made a key decision.  They decided to be a rock ‘n roll band, that does not perform for live audiences.  By subtracting the ‘live performance’ from their art, they created new possibilities. They did not have to reproduce live what they did in the recording studio.  They climbed new artistic heights in this way. 

     Ruth Blatt advises, “Next time you feel blocked, try doing like the Beatles and take out something you used to think was essential.”   You’ll be amazed at the results.