Subtraction is the removal of an essential core element rather than the addition of new systems or functions.
Like all the other techniques of the Systematic Inventive Thinking or SIT method, the subtraction technique is designed to break cognitive fixedness, which is the mental bias we have of how we see things.
It trains you to use your brain in a different way and see new possibilities.
What is your closed world environment? Then within that closed world, what is the element of it that you want to innovate? What is your starting point?
Break it down into its constituent components, which are the things directly attached to the product or service. Write them in a numbered list so you can see them and internalize the process that you’re going to go through.
Pick one that you think is essential or something you can do without. Now, imagine the component you picked is gone. You have all the other elements, just not that component.
Remember that in a cognitive process, function follows form. So go backward from there. Figure out the problem that it solves or the benefit it delivers.
Let’s take the TV as an example here.
You can’t have a TV without a screen, right? And this is the whole point of this technique which is to recognize that as fixedness.
To hear more about how to break fixedness through subtraction, listen to the full podcast episode here: Episode 011: The Subtraction Technique: The Creative Power of Taking Elements Away.