Why Your Improvement Efforts are Just Making Everything Worse

Jake Wilder
4 min readFeb 24, 2022

The Power of Subtraction

Photo by Digital Buggu from Pexels

“Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away,” said Antoine de Saint-Exupery, the pioneering aviator and author of Le Petit Prince. And yet, our first instinct is always to add, rather than subtract. We add more features to our products, more layers to our organizations, and more initiatives to drive workplace culture.

This isn’t necessarily bad, but it’s also not the only option. If our main focus is adding more things, we miss out on half of our opportunities to improve.

Instead of adding features to improve a product, it may be better to remove things and make it simpler. Instead of adding more layers of management, it may be more effective to remove the bureaucracy and increase ownership at the lowest level. And instead of creating another initiative to improve your culture, you might find more success by removing the barriers that are stifling collaboration and inclusion. Or just firing all of your crappy managers.

For decades, we’ve focused on improvement by addition and the evidence is all around us.

Most meetings include far too many people, burdening teams with too many opinion-givers and not enough contributors. Most operating instructions…



Jake Wilder

I don’t know where I’m going. But at least I know how to get there.