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Innovate with Less

In today’s Wall Street Journal, Drew Boyd and Jacob Goldenberg explain their innovation strategy from their new book Inside the Box: A Proven System of Creativity for Breakthrough Results.

One of their methods is subtraction – removing things everyone assumes are essential.

Consider a contact lens, an exercise bicycle, a package of powdered soup and an ATM. What do they have in common? They have all had something subtracted. Subtract the frame of a pair of glasses and you have the contact lens. Remove a bike’s rear wheel and you invent the exercise bicycle. Extract water from soup to make a package of powdered soup. Take the bank employee out of a cash transaction and you have an ATM.

Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, the founders of 37 Signals, makers of Basecamp and Highrise, preach this concept. I wrote about this last year. Key quote:

Everyone tries to do too much: solve too many problems, build products with too many features. We say ‘no’ to almost everything. If you include every decent idea that comes along, you’ll just wind up with a half-assed version of your product. What you want to do to is build half a product that kicks ass.”

Make the most with what you have. Sure you would like to have more resources –  more funding, more staff, bigger office, more marketing budget. But what can you do with what you have? It’s like coming home late from work and you have to make dinner. You don’t feel like getting back in your car to drive to the grocery store to buy ingredients. So you make due with what you have. You see what you have in the pantry and refrigerator and you get creative.  You skip the cookbook and use your intuition and experience and you innovate. My family will attest that those are my most tasty dinners.

Your skills and resources are enough. Push the innovation for your business or life by doing less.

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