Productivity Or The Art Of Doing Less To Getting More

Lison Mage
5 min readJul 2, 2022

What is best for kids to learn how to bike? Should they learn on a balance bike or a bike with training wheels?

As a child, I learnt with training wheels. But nowadays, I see balance bikes everywhere. And so I curiously wondered why.

It turns out experts say it is easier for kids to learn to bike with a balance bike¹. The reason is they can learn to balance and steer first and later add the pedalling movement. Training wheels balance the bike but don’t help them learn this skill².

More interestingly, training wheels were used as early as 1949 but balance bike, which is a superior learning method, only ramped up in the late nineties.

So, why did it take us about 50 years to figure out this?

The answer highlights one of our cognitive biases and has profound implications on our ability to problem-solve and productivity.

Researchers at the University of Virginia found that people systematically overlook subtractive changes when looking for a solution³. That means that we unconsciously favour “adding something” over “removing something” to problem-solve.

Children have an issue with balance when learning to bike; let’s add some stabilisers! Or maybe we could remove the pedals.

Sometimes removing an element gives better results than adding one. And this applies to bikes and many other areas.

If you are a designer, you probably heard the motto: “Less is more”. One of the best examples is to compare overcrowded Yahoo and minimalist Google search engine home pages.

In January 2006, Google accounted for 41.4% of the global search market, and Yahoo 28.7%⁴. It is now 85.5% for Google and 2.8% for Yahoo⁵.

Lison Mage

I help people & teams lead strategic change and make better decisions. Read my book on Overthinking: