Came across an older article I'd read a couple years ago on "Elegance By Design: The Art of Less" by Matthew May, the author of In Pursuit of Elegance. Almost two years later, its ideas still ring fresh and relevant, arguing that "there is an art to the management of ideas and the people who create them, and thus a role for elegance." Here's a key passage:
The goal of elegance is to maximize effect with minimum means. It’s an elusive target. Scientists, mathematicians, and engineers search for theories that explain highly complex phenomena in simple ways. Artists use white, or “negative,” space to convey visual power. Musicians and composers use silence to create dramatic tension. Physicians try to find a single diagnosis to explain all of a patient’s symptoms, shaving the analysis down to the simplest explanation.
For today’s manager, the key to understanding its relevance lies in realizing that value, for customers and employees alike, may best be added, paradoxically, through a primarily subtractive process. As Jim Collins wrote in 2003, “A great piece of art is composed not just of what is in the final piece, but equally what is not. It is the discipline to discard what does not fit—to cut out what might have already cost days or even years of effort—that distinguishes the truly exceptional artist and marks the ideal piece of work, be it a symphony, a novel, a painting, a company, or most important of all, a life.”
Three key ideas:
- Symmetry: simple rules create effective order
- Seduction: limiting information creates intrigue
- Subtraction: restraint and removal creates value
- Elegance By Design: The Art of Less (MIT Sloan Management Review)