KA McKercher Episodes

The Science of Less with Leidy Klotz

John Carter
February 15, 2022
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KA McKercher Episodes
February 15, 2022

The Science of Less with Leidy Klotz

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I’m your host KA McKercher, author of Beyond Sticky Notes: Doing Co-design for Real. Today I’m joined by Leidy Klotz, an engineer, behavioural scientist and author of the book Subtract: The Untapped Science of Less. We talk about subtraction as a critical capability for designers and design leaders, why we overlook subtractive change and about the importance of working in the open.


Episode Transcript

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S1: Hello and welcome to pushing practice on this CD. I'm Kelly McCutcheon. I'm a designer,


S2: a writer, and I use them they pronounce I want to acknowledge the traditional owners of the lands and which


S1: I'm recording this podcast, the one go and got to


S2: go people of the orientation, as well as all nations across Australia. This series aims to stretch our view of human centred design through talking with practitioners who are working beyond double diamond who are pushing practice. Today, I'm joined by an engineer, behavioral scientist and author of the book Subtract the Untapped Science Less. We talk about subtraction as a critical capability for designers and design leaders. We talk about the science


S1: behind why we overlook subtractive change. We're doing this about the importance of working in the open


S2: and of, in Ceci Robinson's words,


S1: stewarding less. Let's get into it. Welcome to the podcast. Please tell us your pronouns in the land you located on he.


S3: Him and I am located in central Virginia, in the United States and its Monacan and Monacan land.


S1: And I wonder if you could tell folks about yourself, maybe what you do and the questions that are interesting to you right now.


S3: Awesome. Yeah, I'm a by title, a professor at the University of Virginia here, and I teach engineering in architecture. I'm mainly interested in how we think about design. So all my research is in the or most of my research would be classified as behavioral science, in particular, how we think about changing things from how they are to how we want them to be, which is something that's pretty fundamental, but also cuts across all the forms of design. And then the book that I most recently wrote in the paper that most recently came out is looking at how we how people systematically overlook subtraction as a design option. So when we try to change something from how it is to how we want it to be got, we often jump right to our to, OK, what can I add to make this better, which is fine, but oftentimes we will add that thing and move on and not even consider subtracting whether subtracting may have served us as well or or served us better. So that's an example. I'm interested in all these things that are kind of fundamental to how we think about designing.


S1: And I wonder if you could tell us about how you first arrived at this observation that we overlook less?


S3: Yeah, I've I've always been interested in this. I mean, I'm a designer who cares about sustainability. And you know, when you look around at the solutions, you realize that you can't just you can't just add our way out of this problem that has arisen from our from our editing. Largely, I would say that real epiphany or kind of crystallizing experience for me was playing Legos with my son, who is he was two at the time. He's seven now, which is great because he can brag about being the genesis of this epiphany. But so we're playing Legos when he was two and we're building this bridge. And the problem we had was that the bridge wasn't level. And I turned around behind me to add a block to the shorter tower. And by the time I turned back around, he had subtracted a block from the longer tower. And what that did was help me kind of take this focus on less so these minimalist designs and show me that help me focus in on this act of taking away as what I was interested in. And why is it that or is it in fact, at the time, it was still a question. Is it that we all think the way that I did in that moment, which is, here's this thing I want to make better. What can I add to it? And if my son wasn't there randomly stumbling on the subtractive option, I would have just added and moved on and never been any wiser for it.


S1: And I wonder if we could talk a bit more about this idea of subtractive change and what that means and say service or product or even architecture.


S3: Yeah, the problem with the Lego example is so vivid in its physical. But what we've what we are interested in with our research and what we've found this in and what you can think about it in is not just physical things, but also situations or social situations and ideas really right? And we we tend to operate the same way across all of those realms of whether it's a Lego bridge or whether it's one of the things we used in our experiments was a ridiculous travel itinerary in Washington, D.C. I mean, it was physically impossible to do all these things, and it was a drag and drop interface. And we told people, OK, here's your travel your day in Washington, D.C., how do you how would you make it better? And people still added to it? Predominantly. Very few people took something away. And so that's an example of the same behavior in a social situation, and that's a trivial trip to Washington, D.C. But we can all do, but I won't say we can all say I myself today have noticed myself. Just adding more things to do is as my kind of default way of making my my day better. And so we do this in the physical situation or in the social situations. And then also in an idea is right. It's really hard. It's really easy to listen to a podcast, accumulate new ideas. But how often do we think about, OK, what are the ideas that are in my head that are no longer, I no longer think are true or that I've received evidence that kind of shows those ideas aren't accurate, and all of those areas are areas where we systematically overlook. Subtracting is as a way to make change. Does that make sense?


S1: It does, and it was reminding me of a recent service that I've been redesigning, and it would have been my natural impulse to come in and say, Well, what can I add to make? The experience, Peter, and what can I add to the operations, Peter and I think could listen to your podcast on Future Fossil might have been and it's sort of just really stuck in my head and I went into the service redesign and rather asked the question of what is it we could take away, in particular from frontline staff who are already really overwhelmed, really busy. The volume is enormous. So we started thinking about what are the things we could take away from the front line task list and actually sort of outsource to different places or different ways of getting done so that when the person comes to have the service, there's already a whole bunch of things that have been being done in different ways so that the kind of frontline experience is more about taking away the burden of, you know, huge amount of admin job to actually focus on the human experience.


S3: Yeah, that's awesome. I know that's such a great example of subtracting in complex systems, but also invisible systems. And so I would know to your horn a little bit here where to be able to subtract things. In that situation, you had to understand what was going on right, any any consultant to come in and say, OK, here's the three things you need to add. You need to know absolutely nothing about the organization to add things to it, but to identify the things you need to subtract. You have to actually understand what's happening. And that's I mean that that lesson applies to all of us right there. All these kind of invisible things, invisible structures, invisible tasks that are occurring throughout our days that if we pay attention to the first step to subtracting them is to pay attention to what they actually are and systematically kind of. Identifying them so that we can evaluate whether they're actually good things to keep or not. I'm glad that worked. Yeah.


S1: Yeah, me too. I wonder what this is about. So, you know, perhaps it's not just designers that have this impulse to add things, and it sounds like through some of your experiments, the suggestion is that this is a broader sort of phenomenon. I mean, what's the science about why we just want to add things all the time?


S3: It's it's designers, but I think everybody's designers, right? It's everybody who's trying to change things from how they are to how we want them to be. And also, it's not just humans. I mean, there's animals do this too, right? And so in my book, I explored some of that. So the basic finding from the paper was that we overlook subtraction and that we add first and then move on. And so in the book, I could explore some of the OK, why might this be the case? And you look at biology and evolutionary history, and then your mind starts to then you go towards, OK, what things have been advantageous in us passing down our genes are in different species, passing down their genes and adding food. That's been evolutionary, helpful behavior. But then you also learn about things like competence, which I knew about competence. This desire to show that we're making an impact on the world, but I didn't know how fundamental it was in my go. To example for that is bower birds building nests. And so these these birds will build these ceremonial nests and the male birds build them. The female birds go around and look at the nest, decide which male to meet with based on the ceremonial ceremonial nest, and then the females go build a nest to raise the young. So the whole purpose of this first nest is just to show that the male who built it is competent and is effective at interacting with the world, which seems silly. But it's not silly because what that is showing is that OK, if a male is good at building a nest, then they probably have genes that are also good at acquiring food or doing other things that you would want in your kind of genetic lineage. And so we all share this desire to display competence. You see parallels in the McMansions and things like that, but you can also the whole idea of competence has been extended to successful task completion too, right? And so all these marginally useful tasks. You feel good when you check off what to do, even if it's not something that is kind of directly aligned with what you're trying to accomplish or your big picture goals. And because you're displaying competence, you're showing you can effectively interact with the world. And so that that, I think, could be these biological forces, whether this desire to acquire things, this desire to display competence that are pulling us in a direction of adding, of course, they're not to excuse it, right? I mean, one of the fundamental ways that evolution works, at least, is adaptations and selections, right? So if you if you use evolution as a model for your designing, it's this is in my view, how we should view. Adding and subtracting is more kind of complementary approaches to making things better. Right. So evolution progresses is the right word. But evolution moves by adding things and then subtracting. And we can think about that in our designs, too. If if, if adding is a good way to to make something better than maybe subtracting is also a good way to make something better and we should consider. So that's I mean, that's just the biological stuff I can go into the cultural and economic forces to if you'd like, but do it.


S1: I'd love for it.


S3: All right. Yes. So this is a chapter two is biology. Chapter three is the cultural forces. And so it's like from the beginning of human civilization, right? When you don't have food and shelter and books, it makes sense to add these things right. And so for a long time, adding has been a really good way to make changes like, OK, acquire more food and more food stability, acquire more. We don't have a city. Let's build a hospital. Let's build the administrative building, build roads and. And the same with ideas. There's not an abundance of information. So how can we kind of share and add information? And for a long time this adding that the cultures, the added and expanded are the cultures that that turned into us? I mean, we we of course, not every culture is exactly the same, but the cultures that were like the monarch in in the Monacan that we mentioned at the beginning of the show. I mean, those cultures have been eclipsed by adding cultures. And yeah, so so there's that cultural history, and I think there's a good argument to be made that this is where we're in a unique period where we have this opportunity to subtract, right? We can look at our cities and say. OK. The city's been built up 90 percent of the highways are effective and useful and doing their job moving people around, but what about this 10 percent that's separating a neighborhood or creating urban heat islands, reevaluating the things that we have added and deciding which ones should be subtracted for for good? And that's not a decision that our our ancestors necessarily had the had the opportunity to make. And then of course, there's the economic forces. A lot of people jump right to those right where it's like, Oh, capitalism, we can't add to and be capitalistic. And I'd argue that it's less about capitalism. And certainly, there's opportunities to improve capitalism or to improve our economic system. But I don't think capitalism precludes subtracting, certainly people. Google is a very subtractive web searching interface. Apple has made a lot of money by subtracting features, and I think that subtracting as you just explained how you subtracted to add value to this service organization, right? And so I think the challenge is when we kind of conflate progress and growth and some of the blunt economic metrics like gross domestic product write, you add a prison and that that looks good for your gross domestic product, even though it's not necessarily a positive thing or a thing that adds value to society. So, so certainly, there are these kind of economic and social and political forces that that sometimes push us to add as well.


S1: There's a few different things that I'm thinking about as you're talking, and one is that there are particular organizations and systems in which nothing ever stops. So we have all these products and programs and services, and we might even know that they don't work or they don't work very effectively. But the actual process by which we end things and I know people aren't Cassie Robinson. I've done some work on this idea of stewarding loss. And I think endings in general, there's not much attention paid to. So we're just sort of don't do them. And I wonder what your insights are around this business of like stopping things and ending things.


S3: That's awesome. I love that suggestion I had. I'm going to I wrote down stewarding loss so I can look it up. But the thing I love about it is that subtracting is just really hard, right? And what our research shows is that it doesn't come to mind. And then when it does come to mind, it's hard to pull off, right? Because you can imagine all of these reasons why you wouldn't subtract the program. You're basically saying, why are you going to do that to the people who started the program? Or maybe you're the one who started the program and it looks bad. But if you can build in this like, OK, after five years, this program's going away, then it's like, this is a thing that is naturally going to happen. It becomes the default, which, as we've seen adding, is the default and if you can. But if you can force people or kind of force this decision or force this point where something will be subtracted, that would be a really good way to kind of keep this unfettered growth in check. That's I love that idea.


S1: I wonder to what extent as well I think we all know about like the kind of sunk cost. Yeah. However, how I went on to talk about that and there is certainly something, and perhaps it does have that sort of an evolutionary origin around wanting to hold on to things that have been made that have had effort and time and energy. And I guess the the winding things up is one way, but certainly that going further upstream around, maybe more subtractive change in terms of service or product operations in the first place. But I guess even implementing a subtractive change might come to be not useful at a at a period of time and still sort of deserve to be composted. And sort of, you know, we learn what we need to learn and then we do away with it. The other thing that I was just going.


S3: I get it. I was, yeah, I just had the epiphany of what you were saying. So yeah, that that makes a ton of sense. Yeah. Subtracting is not always the right solution. And yeah, you wouldn't want to permanently instill a subtractive change any more than you would want to permanently have an additive change. I mean, one example, and I also think that gives us some. A little more courage to try them, right, so it's something as simple as, oh, I'm going to shift my meetings with my graduate students, which is like my favorite part of the week and I'm going to instead of having a weekly meeting with each one, I'm going to have a biweekly meeting with each one. And we'll see what happens. I can always add it back.


S1: I was also thinking, I guess, about should folks want to be more subtractive designers or design leaders? Yeah. You know, I know that as designers, we're obsessed with toolkits. But I'm wondering from like the tools or prompts or conversations or habits kind of perspective what it is that we need to add into our, you know, imaginary toolkit to be more subtractive. Yeah.


S3: I mean, listening to this podcast is a great start. Reading the book hopefully helps you or listening to the book helps you kind of instill it in you even more deeply. I would say also that. Specific reminders, we didn't find much evidence in our research that reminders would increase the rates of subtracting. So if we said, Oh, look on this problem, you can add and you can subtract. That would increase the rates of subtraction. And it was interesting for our research because the reminders that you could add didn't increase rates of adding. So it was perfect proof that like, OK, the problem here is we're not even thinking of subtraction, because when you remind people they can, more people do it. But we are thinking of adding, you give them a reminder. They're like, Well, of course, we already were thinking of that. But that reminder didn't necessarily carry over to other experiments, right? And so I think so, giving yourself specific reminders like if you know that what you do is design, you do service design and you say, OK, here's my process, and you might hear the five steps that I've kind of developed through the process that I use and go and work within organizations like have I reminded myself to consider taking away barriers to the change that I'm seeking? And I imagine most professionals are already kind of thinking that way, but use it as an illustrative example of think about the reminders and put them into whatever your process is so that you're not you. So that it's not possible to then overlook this is an option in the future. And so when you're actually thinking about subtraction, which you could do right after this podcast, you can say, OK, here are the five reminders I'm going to put in place in my life to make sure that I don't overlook it anymore. And that would be one way of of. Practically making sure that this stays in your toolbox.


S1: I was just thinking as well around how we teach design and often when we've sort of got past discovery, we have to find a problem or opportunity when we get into that kind of develop part or the designing part. Very seldom do I see in design education a focus on both. I sort of think about it as, yes, we can develop ideas. We might also just need to join up things that are kind of two disparate across the system. You might need to find something that's already working and kind of amplify that across the system. And more recently, as I've been teaching, I've also been including the subtractive stuff to say, Well, they might actually be things we need to take away, and that might be outcome creating a equal two or more. So then adding things or joining things up. And I'm curious about other design, which is what they are including, and particularly that pot and whether we can sort of have more of a focus on subtraction, not where it harms. Because I think the pointy end of this that you know, it gives me a slight nervousness is when you already don't have enough subtracting, isn't that desirable? So it's kind of maybe, you know,


S3: that's out of scope for our conversation. Yeah, and I'm but I'm glad you brought it up. The whole point here is subtractions that that makes things better, not subtraction is that kind of streamline things through some dictator or see somebody who's trying to just bring the most profit out of a situation. So how can we subtract to make things better? Yeah. And I love the education question I teach engineers and architects. I'll give a writing example of how I try to do it. And so I'll sign the 10 page papers do like halfway through the semester and then a five page paper and the two weeks before the end. And then the last thing is a two page paper, and I don't know if that's the perfect way to do it, but it does. One thing that happens right in education is the same thing is everywhere else where we kind of cram into this very end deadline. And it doesn't respect the fact that subtracting actually takes more work, right? Because to subtract something you have to add have added in the first place to make a good two page paper. You have to have written the five pages, right? And and so so by spreading it out in that way, I think we can kind of allocate the subtracting the time that it that it needs and also show that for our students, the other way that I think that works is that students aren't any different than me. If I'm doing a consulting design where if I give just the two page version, I'm worried that they're going to think that I was lazy or they didn't do a good job, or I didn't even think about the 10 page version. And so if you can give students this opportunity to OK, show me all your work. Great, there's the ten pages now. Show me the five good pages that show me the two best pages. I think that that kind of gets us past that, that competence barrier of that subtracting doesn't display competence. And in this case, it does display competence because you've kind of flipped around what the metrics are. It's like now the the best one is the thing that explains the most in this two pages or does the best job within this two pages. So, yeah, I love the education examples.


S1: So I you were talking, I was just thinking and I might be wrong and totally on the wrong track. But like is is subtracting similar to curating or editing. So I guess when I think about the sort of practices that curators use and the practices that perhaps editors use like, is this something that those types of professions are just better at it? We can learn from them.


S3: They claim to be one. If the pandemic hadn't happened, we we had plans to go to an editing conference and study like the editors and see if they were better at subtracting in other domains. And I hadn't thought of curators, but yeah, that's the exact same thing, right? You're curating in all its forms, right? Whether it's the curating art or whether you're curating the three products you want to show to somebody in the grocery store, you're essentially a process of subtracting. One thing that's interesting there, and I think it highlights that the systematic disadvantage that subtracting has is that subtracting is invisible. So if you think about all this amazing stuff that we read every day that has been improved by editors, nobody thinks about the editor because what they did is invisible, right? They just took away words. And that's the same in the physical world, like if you take away a high. Way through the middle of the city, people might notice at first, but like 20 years later, nobody says, Oh, that's that's a beautiful spot because the highways gone, they just say that's a beautiful spot. And so when we subtract, it's less visible, which means there are less reminders of subtracting when we're walking around in the world. And I think that's one of the best theories for why we've evolved not to think of it as much, right? Because we're not surrounded by reminders of subtraction in the same way that we are reminders of additions. So the this gets back to one of your your tips. So in addition to giving ourselves these kind of written reminders, can we make these physical reminders of subtraction? And that's as far as I've gotten with that one. I don't have great examples of physical subtractions, but I do think when we subtract something, we have to do a little extra work to put in place a reminder that, hey, this better experience, this beautiful thing, this better idea has been brought to you by subtraction. And then that would help people think of it more for future situations.


S1: I wonder if there's a movement there of light brought to you by subtraction? I was just I was just thinking about your excuse me, your story before about the teaching example and one of the things that I've been doing for quite a few years and maybe hadn't realized what this was about is always providing to people at the end of a design project or, say, the end of a discovery phase. A very long descriptive kind of these are all the things that we heard. This is all the detail about the method. And then a very short version. And I often say those things at the same time and sort of say, Look, here's the short version. Here's the really long thing if you really want to understand all the ins and outs or the different types of data that was collected. And maybe there's actually something kind of intuitive in there around. Because what I notice is people often want to know that the long thing is there. They don't read it, but it's somehow sort of gives them perhaps some comfort about, you know, that things have been adequately pared back. And if you really want to trace the origin story of that, you could let the clues are there.


S3: Yeah, that's an amazing thing you do. As a teacher, I can't. I mean, the value in that is because it's such hard work to distill something down. So you're fitting back to them everything they presented, plus your distillation. That's a yeah, you have your students are very fortunate. And but yeah, I think that there are some practical tips out of that too, right, where you say, say you do this, I'll think of an example from my world. So when I'm presenting to engineers, you know, the conventional engineering is a PowerPoint slide with all the stuff on it to show that you know what you're doing. And of course, we know that's not the best way to present information scientifically. Nobody can possibly process all that stuff. And so one way to kind of thread that needle and not look like you're bucking all the conventions, but also actually share information in a way that's useful is to give the streamlined presentation that just maybe has like one insertion on each side and a little bit of evidence, but then also give the handout that has all the stuff. And again, nobody's, you know, maybe somebody goes through all the detail, but it's mainly there is evidence that you've done the work to do all the additive stuff and that that's helped. That suggestion is help students. I do feel like they're they're more likely to strip down and really think about, OK, what is the what is the essence of what I'm doing? If you if they also have this cushion of being able to provide the ten pages which shows that they actually did work?


S1: Oh, I wanted to, you know, something that's become increasingly popular, particularly in public sector innovation and design, is this focus on working in the open and kind of working in ways that are more transparent and not just squirreling away. You know, in the office with the Post-it Notes. And then because because I think that's where a disconnect can happen is the it's a pretty big leap to get from a wall of Post-it notes into like a set of three in science for an entire organizational system to act on and make decisions based on. And I wonder if there's something for designers in particular around being better at showing their thinking so that when the conclusion those ratios are subtracted one, it's not this great shock to everyone, but rather there's a series serious white bread crumbs that have led up to that.


S3: I think you've solved my problem that I could this this no disability problem for subtraction and when you talk about it in terms of showing the process, right? Because if, yeah, if we did a better job of that, then people would see the three options that you considered before you came down to the one option. And then there were two. There's the evidence of the subtracting. It's the same as if you if everybody saw the tracks changes version of your article, or they could choose to click on it if they wanted to, then they would see the benefits of of editing. So I really like that one. I mean, obviously that the reason for doing that is that it has just transparency benefits that are positive in general. But I think it would also show the show the subtraction and make it less likely to overlook it in in future future options.


S1: Hmm. I was as I was reading through the coals that nature paper it describes, you know, we have lots of sayings like Lisa's more. And in the world of design, we have John, my ideas, laws of simplicity that have been around for some time and I'm sure many hundreds and hundreds more principles and frameworks that deal with. You know, I don't know if conceptually simplicity and less are quite always the exact same thing, but those two ideas. And of course, it's easy to say that and quite hard to do that actually inside of an organization inside of a culture that prioritizes doing more and having more. And, you know, these kind of signs of competency. I'm wondering more from a skill level or a capability level, what it is that sort of individuals and teams need to do to be more subtractive, like, is there things we have to unlearn if that such a thing?


S3: Hmm. Yeah, it's funny because as I was thinking about the takeaways for the book right and and you immediately jump to, OK, here are the three new things you need to know. And it's exactly like you said. Some of it is is what do you what do you unlearn? I think that the. This is a little abstract, but I still think useful is that positioning these ideas as binary is a really big problem, right? When we think about adding and subtracting and one of our tendencies is to be like, OK, if I add, then I can't subtract one thing. One criticism that I'll take that I'll get, which is completely unfounded. Some of the criticism is founded, but this is unfounded. It is that, you know, oh, Haiti just thinks he just wants us to subtract. He doesn't like adding, It's like, No, I agree. I think if I had to choose one or the other, I would choose adding, But but I'm just pointing out that we overlook this huge, huge, huge potential. And so that's a product of this binary thinking, which binary thinking is helpful in logic and reasoning, right? If you can position two things as opposites one's true, then the other isn't true. But it's not helpful when the things aren't actually opposites. And in this case, they're there. They couldn't be more similar. They're complementary approaches to to making change right there. These are our two basic options for trying to make something better. And so if we looked at them in that way, I think that would be a huge. To your question about unlearning, that's a thing to unlearn is stop thinking it, add or subtract it's add and subtract. These are both complimentary ways to make change. I think that would be my my number one thing to unlearn.


S1: Mm hmm. I was just thinking as well about as you were describing this false binary if there is something that's in the middle of these things, not to sort of just lighten the arbitrary kind of spectrum, but if there was something in the middle, I was thinking about the idea of doing a remix. And I know that's a bit 90s, like making a mixtape or I could say it or whatever, but that was my era.


S3: Well, into the 90s, yeah, mixtape


S1: and I was thinking about. I also don't think we remix things quite enough. So sometimes it is that like if I think about a service as a collection of parts, whether it's people, processes, resources like physical materials, sometimes it is the remixing of things that also can produce a good outcome. And we might not. We might subtract some things. We might need to add something. But yeah, I wonder just about the remix as a as a unexplored thing.


S3: Yeah. Maybe that's the next book that should be the of your your next, your next one. But no, that's exactly right. I mean, adding and subtracting are not the only options, and I remix is a catchier. I would think of it as like kind of rearranging. But Remix is way catchier. So there is that massive remix option, which is just like, look at how things are organized, and I agree with that. I mean, I don't think we we pay very little attention. It seems to me to the relationships between things, right? We're very focused on, OK, here's the here's the 10 things that are in this organization. And if we keep the same 10 things, it'll behave exactly the same way. But that's not true at all. If you rearrange those same exact 10 things, you can get completely different outcomes. So Remix Big Big category probably also overlooked, but I don't have the scientific evidence to back it up.


S1: You can have that one you can explore for the right mix.


S3: You're not. All right.


S1: We can have another conversation with like a year or two years about


S3: remix the remix. That would be like it would be four years, probably between the research for the research. But yeah, fuck it.


S1: Yeah, I'm being optimistic, it would say. So I'd love for you as we start to wrap up led to maybe tell folks about your book like we'll obviously put in the show notes, but maybe you know the name of the book where folks can get it and and what that take away from it?


S3: Yeah. So the book is called Subtract the Untapped Science of Glass. You can get it anywhere. There's an audio book version, there's a Kindle version it's at. Get it through your independent bookstore. If, if, if you prefer that, I'd encourage that. But yeah, and so the the book is explanation of the scientific evidence, which you mentioned the paper with. My co-authors, Ben Converse, gave Adams and Andy Hales, which the the book is impossible without the paper, but the paper is just the first chapter of the book. And then the book goes on to explore one of the reasons for this thing that we've observed painstakingly through all these studies. So the cultural, evolutionary, economic and social reasons, and then with that understanding of the reasons why the forces that are kind of preventing us from subtracting some of the practical ways that we can, we might be able to use it. I would say that, you know, and again, it's it's not prescriptive self-help, and I just don't think that there's it's an appropriate thing for prescriptive self. Help in this case, because hopefully does in the best cases is give smart people like your podcast listeners this this way of viewing the world that will help them see more options. I guess to put that another way, it's like, I'm not to sound pandering to your listeners, just like I just don't understand the ins and outs of everybody's job and how they would be applying subtraction in it. And so what the book does is tries to explain why this is happening. Give a series of examples from different areas of how people have subtracted and then and when it's successful, which I get to hear some really positive feedback from designers that it's it. It helps them think of new subtractions that aren't mentioned in the book.


S1: And I have a feeling that when we share this episode, we might ask people, what have they or what will they subtract and what outcomes does that have? And hopefully that then gives you a whole bunch more material as well as helps us like work in the open with each other around. What are these options?


S3: That's been absolutely my favorite part of writing the book and completely unexpected. I thought, you know, just write the book and throw it out there and people see what happens. But hearing how people use this and or even if it's they had this epiphany before reading the book, those subtractions are just priceless. And so I would love to see those. Thanks for doing that.


S1: Well, it's been absolute pleasure to have you on the show today. We'll put a range of links in the show notes to why these work, as well as some of the examples we talked through today like this. Joining US staff and John Myers laws of simplicity if folks haven't seen those so. And Lourdes, thank you.


S3: Of course. Thank you.


S2: Thanks for listening to pushing practice on This is H.C. Day. If you want to learn more about the other shows on the This is CD network. Feel free to visit. This is a CD dot com. You can sign up to the community newsletter. Learn about upcoming online community gatherings or join the Slack channel, where you can connect with thousands of other human centered design practitioners around the world. Thank you for listening and see you next time.

John Carter
Tech Vlogger & YouTuber

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