"Harnessing the Power of Subtraction and Algorithm-Friendly Design for Success"


Hatched by Glasp

Jul 26, 2023

3 min read


"Harnessing the Power of Subtraction and Algorithm-Friendly Design for Success"


In the pursuit of improvement and success, it is crucial to focus not only on doing more things right but also on avoiding mistakes and reducing complexity. This article explores the concept of improvement through subtraction, as well as the power of algorithm-friendly design. By understanding these principles, individuals and businesses can make significant gains and achieve their goals more effectively.

Improvement by Subtraction:

Japanese television makers exemplify the concept of improvement by subtraction. Instead of seeking better materials or more intelligent workers, they chose to build the same product but with fewer mistakes. This approach highlights the importance of eliminating errors and reducing complexity to achieve improvement. By subtracting what doesn't work, companies can streamline their processes and products, leading to better results.

The Front End vs. the Downside:

Many individuals and managers tend to focus on achieving higher levels of performance rather than cutting down on mistakes. However, it is often easier to eliminate errors and reduce the downside than it is to master peak performance. By prioritizing the elimination of mistakes, individuals and businesses can improve their performance more efficiently.

Algorithm-Friendly Design:

The success of platforms like Twitter and TikTok lies in their ability to "see" like an algorithm. These platforms have designed their interfaces and processes to optimize the performance of their algorithms, which, in turn, enhances the user experience. By providing cleaner signals and gathering extensive feedback, these platforms can deliver personalized content that matches users' preferences.

TikTok's Closed Loop of Feedback:

TikTok's design is a prime example of algorithm-friendly design. The platform creates a closed loop of feedback, where the algorithm inspires and enables the creation and viewing of videos that train it further. By becoming its own source of training data, TikTok's algorithm has become highly effective at matching videos with users who find them entertaining. This user-centric design model has proven successful, especially in consumer tech, due to its ability to leverage massive network effects.

The Power of Positive and Negative Signals:

Social networks like Facebook and Twitter predominantly rely on explicit positive feedback mechanisms, which can lead to a lack of accurate negative signals. This can result in content that is not aligned with users' true interests, causing disinterest and eventual churn. By incorporating implicit and explicit positive and negative signals, social networks can better understand user preferences and deliver more relevant content.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Embrace Improvement by Subtraction: Instead of solely focusing on doing more things right, identify areas where mistakes occur and work towards eliminating them. Streamlining processes and reducing complexity can lead to significant improvements.
  • 2. Prioritize Error Reduction: Instead of solely chasing peak performance, invest time and effort into identifying and eliminating errors. By cutting down on the downside, you can achieve improvement more efficiently.
  • 3. Design for Algorithms: If you are developing an app or platform, consider how you can optimize it for algorithms to "see" and provide personalized experiences. This can involve gathering clean signals, incorporating positive and negative feedback mechanisms, and creating closed loops of feedback.


To make significant gains and achieve success, it is essential to focus on avoiding mistakes, reducing complexity, and designing for algorithms. Improvement by subtraction allows for more efficient progress, while algorithm-friendly design optimizes user experiences. By implementing these principles and taking actionable steps, individuals and businesses can drive growth and reach their desired outcomes.

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