In this week’s email, we’ll discuss some subtractive solutions to include in your decision-making.
Too often, we think the solution is additive.
What more do we need to do to get what we want?
Add fuel to the fire, increase value, features, hustle…
More, more, more.
But what if the solution is better solved through reduction or elimination?
Dr. Russell Ackoff shares the idea that if you looked at all the best components and subsystems of every car made and selected the best of each, you couldn’t put them together into a single supercar.
To do so wouldn’t even result in a working vehicle because some of those subsystems would be incompatible and not work together, resulting in just a bunch of connected parts.
In many businesses that I’ve worked at, when something happens that results in customer dissatisfaction, we often added something to eliminate the event from happening again.
You do that enough, and your system becomes a Frankenstein’s monster of procedures. When someone new comes in and looks at the process they ask, “Why do we do this?”
The answer comes back, “We don’t know,” or a recollection of this old one-off event is retold.
In the author world, you can quickly build a Rube Goldberg business system by copying what everyone says is the new hot way to be a bestseller.
Soon you’ll find yourself with little time to write and eighty hours of frantic work that doesn’t produce funds or fans.
The Toyota Production Method tries to remove Muda (the seven wastes). We can scrutinize processes for what can be eliminated based on not adding customer value.
The Toyota production method is a system for improving systems.
Nowhere does it talk about how to assemble a car. It only focuses on how to optimize a process to get the desired results as efficiently as possible.
It’s one thing to not add to a process, but what’s more challenging for us psychologically is thinking of a subtractive solution—taking away to solve a problem.
The more we minimize a business to its essential steps, the more we simplify the process.
When in the decision-making process is the best choice to say no, not act, or stop doing something? This is the Joy of Moving On.
In competitive sailing, anything added to the boat is evaluated against detrimentalally increasing the weight or drag. There is a trade-off with the design, and all additions must focus on making the boat go faster.
I’ll give you a great example of the trap for authors.
Marketing tends to be additive. You hear of a new hack and add it to your process. Let’s say its deceptively simple: produce content for this new platform, and you’ll add followers.
But, do that enough, and you’ll be a full-time content creator for others.
What if we just ask the question, does it make funds or fans? Does a Tik Tok channel make funds or fans? Does it do it faster and with less effort than just writing another book?
You may conclude that advertising is a more efficient way to get fans or funds. When looking at the results of advertising versus what you’re required to do for content generation on social media ads win.
Maybe you can get followers, clicks, or story magnet downloads on social media but no fans.
It’s not making your boat go faster. Sure there is a bunch of activity on deck, and you have all kinds of sails, but you’re not getting closer to your goal.
Velocity versus speed is what we seek (hint: velocity is speed with direction).
If your current plan has you going 10,000 miles per hour with your hair on fire in the wrong direction, that’s as bad as being at a standstill?
Slow and steady wins the race.
Maybe your ship doesn’t need more. Maybe it needs less to get where it’s going.
Depending on where you are in your career, you may have a system in place that serves you well. Or you may have no strategy.
When we get into the back third of Winning Ways, I’ll be pulling all this together as a system to systematize a publishing business.
One challenge I’ll pose is to ask: how would you design your publishing business if you knew nothing and had nothing?
To elaborate, how would you build it now after reading these emails?
If we build the ship from zero, it may get us a faster ship. For others who already have built a good ship this may be more of an audit—a chance to see if there are things you need to stop doing.
Besides cutting out the waste, you get back time for what matters, and for most authors, that’s writing wonderful books.