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Improvement by Subtraction

I first learned of this concept from James Clear and I think it’s brilliant. Simply put, when looking to improve, rather than looking for new things to add, look for things to take away. Here are just a few examples of where subtraction can help improve data management:

  • Collect LESS data, especially data you’re never actually going to use. Because it’s easy and “free” to collect data, we all have a tendency to ask for more and more from our members and customers. But in my experience, the more data we collect, the less likely we are to actually use it (except for the “isn’t that interesting” charts). More data is NOT better.
  • Require FEWER steps to join, not more. For me, the very best membership join process asks only two questions: “What’s your name?” and “What’s your credit card number?” Any other data we need can be collected at a later time. Remove steps from your join process.
  • Get rid of programs that aren’t producing. More often than not, associations carry programs out of inertia, without considering whether or not it’s still benficial to the membership or the organization. “We hold this program every year, so we’ll keep on holding it.” Kill your sacred zombie cows.

Improvement through addition seems to be the default position for most of us. Got a problem with the data? Add new technology. Got a problem with a program or service not selling? Add more benefits or bells and whistles.

But sometimes, taking things away is a better answer. Faster, quicker, cheaper, more effective! Who doesn’t love that?