Subtract: The Untapped Science of Less
Blending behavioral science and design, Subtract offers a scientific appreciation of why we underuse subtraction—and how to access its untapped potential
When humans solve problems, we overlook an incredibly powerful option: We don’t subtract. We pile on “to-dos” but don’t consider “stop-doings.” We create incentives for high performance, but don’t get rid of obstacles to our goals.
Whether considering a stack of Legos, preparing a grilled cheese sandwich, or writing an essay, Leidy Klotz shows that we consistently overlook the principle of subtraction as a way to improve. Our mental preference for addition—for adding to what’s already there rather than thinking of taking away—is so wide-spread and strong that we would prefer to accommodate wrong ideas than simply remove them.
Drawing from his own pioneering research and scientific research throughout history, Klotz examines cultural, political, and economic trends underlying our neglect of subtraction, asserting that we have billions of years of evidence showing that lifeforms are perfectly capable of subtracting to improve.
Proposing a new way to frame our behaviors, Klotz shares thought-provoking examples and anecdotes to supplement his proven techniques on implementing a new perspective and understanding of subtraction. By learning to use the counterintuitive approach of subtracting, we can revolutionize not just our day-to-day lives, but our work across every field and industry. Subtract shows how this innovative approach to life is the key to unlocking our greatest potential.
Leidy Klotz is the Copenhaver Associate Professor at the University of Virginia, where he is appointed in the Schools of Engineering, Architecture, and Business. He co-founded and co-directs the university's Convergent Behavioral Science Initiative. Klotz earned a highly-selective CAREER award from the National Science Foundation and over $7 million in competitive research funding. He advises influential decision-makers that straddle academia and practice, working with the Departments of Energy and Homeland Security and the National Institutes of Health, among others. A columnist for the Behavioral Scientist, Klotz has written for venues such as Science, Nature, Fast Company, and The Daily Climate.
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