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What Can We Take Away to Create Something New?

There’s a great article in this week’s Economist titled “The Accidental Innovator” that’s about Evan Williams of Blogger and Twitter fame and his belief that innovations are mostly stumbled upon. In his “pursuit of accidents”:

The irony of trying to plan accidents, and orchestrate their frequent occurrence, is not lost on Mr Williams. So he tries mental tricks. One is to ask “what can we take away to create something new?” A decade ago, you could have started with Yahoo! and taken away all the clutter around the search box to get Google. When he took Blogger and took away everything except one 140-character line, he had Twitter. Radical constraints, he believes, can lead to breakthroughs in simplicity and entirely new things.

From Apple’s Human Interface Design Principles:

The best approach to developing easy-to-use software is to keep the design as simple as possible. In other words, a simple design is a good design and the best tools are those that users are not even aware they are using. The more you can do to simplify the interface of your application for your users, the more likely it is that you will build a product that meets their needs and is enjoyable to use.

From 37 Signals:

The answer is less. Do less than your competitors to beat them.

I’m reminded of that great quote from Alfred North Whitehead:

Seek simplicity, and distrust it.

One reply on “What Can We Take Away to Create Something New?”

In the world of art, a phrase is bantered about — “Less is More”. A good painting is usually simple and to the point. For example, when painting “en plein air” (on location) the trick to a good painting is not deciding what to put in from what you see before you, but figuring what to take out. I guess some principles are universal.

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