How Steve Jobs solved complex problems with a simple mental model

Via Negativa

Steve Jobs loved cutting things out.

When he returned to Apple as CEO, before creating any new product, he killed dozens of existing products. And focused the company on what it does best.

Later on, he made one of the biggest leaps in mobile phone history by removing the physical keyboard from phones.

And in his personal life, he cut out all the decisions about clothing by wearing the same things every day.

Solution through subtraction

When we want to solve a problem in life, we look for additive solutions.

You’d like to improve your health? Get supplements.

Want to get more productive? Use a new fancy app.

Project is failing? Assign more resources.

This way of thinking feels natural.

Sometimes it works, but the solution comes with a higher cost and side effects.

And sometimes it fails; as it doesn’t take you away from the root cause of the issue.

Via Negativa offers a different way as a mental model; to find the right answers or achieve the desired result not by adding, but by subtracting — as Steve Jobs did.

It means “The Negative Way” in Latin.

So instead of looking for things to add to a system, a project, or your life, you look for things to eliminate.

Let’s use it for the same examples:

Want to improve your health?

Remove smoking, sugar, and drinking. They are much more effective to improve your health than any supplement you can take.

You’d like to get more productive?

Eliminate the vice that takes the most of your time (E.g., Netflix, gaming, or social media). Say no more often to your friends, colleagues, and new projects.

Project is failing?

Cut out the activities that are not delivering results. Refocus the resources on the core target.

As you see, in all examples it provides an effective solution by subtracting the parts that have a negative impact. It doesn’t add complexity to already complex problems.

So use Via Negativa as a mental model to solve your business and life problems by cutting things out.

You will do less and achieve more.

Michelangelo was asked by the pope about the secret of his genius, particularly how he carved the statue of David, largely considered the masterpiece of all masterpieces.

His answer was: “It’s simple. I just remove everything that is not David.”

From Nassim Taleb’s 
“Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder” book

Πηγή: edition of Life-Changing Concepts

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