the laws of subtraction

My latest reading adventure has involved devouring Matthew E. May’s The Laws of Subtraction. He certainly follows his owns dictums when it comes to text. It is dense in content, but sparse in volume. He is, however, prolific with the single page “Silhouettes in Subtraction” that follow each chapter – personal stories from industry leaders about their adventures in subtraction.

So how and why does this apply to my personal interest in what my colleague, Paul Reali, has termed “strategic creativity” ( i.e. innovative problem-solving for public education)? Schools in general, and public schools in particular, have struggled during the past four years to retain their quality of service within the context of ever-shrinking resources. In fact many of my former co-workers would say there have never been enough resources to provide a high quality education to each and every student in public education.

Many of the problem-solving teams described in the book faced similar difficulties – Toyota’s secret project to design and build the Lexus (less costly, faster, more efficient and quieter) and the successful Mars Pathfinder mission (in one third the time and using only 15% of the budget of the previous NASA mission.) One of our former Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board members, Coach Joe White, often reminded us that public education professionals have been looking for a silver bullet for a long time and still haven’t found it. But just because we haven’t found it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. It’s just hard to find!

May says, “When you remove just the right things in just the right way, something good happens.” Let’s get to work!

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