Less Is More: With Guests Ryan McFarland & Gabrielle Adams

March 14, 2022
When attempting to solve a problem, why do people tend to add something rather than subtract?

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After you listen

Are you considering subtracting something from your portfolio?

Are you considering subtracting something from your portfolio?

Supply chain issues and income inequality notwithstanding, we live in an age of abundance. Our closets overflow with clothing. Many children have more toys than they could possibly enjoy. Garages are filled with sporting gear. Offices are cluttered with gadgets. And even our calendars are packed with meetings and tasks. It can all be a bit much.

In this episode of Choiceology with Katy Milkman, we look at a bias that leads us to add to our collections and to-do lists but neglect to remove unnecessary or unhelpful items.

We begin with the charming story of Strider Bikes, the pedal-less balance bikes for small children. Founder Ryan McFarland is an avid cyclist and motorcycle enthusiast. When his son Bode was 2 years old, Ryan was keen to get him started on riding toys. But nothing he tried quite worked for such a young child. So began a quest to engineer a bike that would get Bode riding right away but still teach him the fundamentals of two-wheeled cycling.

You can read more about the Strider Bike story in the Leidy Klotz book Subtract: The Untapped Science of Less.

Next, you'll hear a re-creation of an experiment inspired by the research of Leidy Klotz and Gabrielle Adams and their collaborators, showing how this tendency to solve problems by addition can sometimes be costly and suboptimal.

Gabrielle Adams joins Katy to discuss the science behind this bias towards addition. You'll hear about practical strategies to overcome this bias that will help you save time and money—and maybe even declutter your mind.

You can read more about subtraction neglect in the research paper Gabrielle Adams co-authored with Benjamin Converse, Andrew Hales, and Leidy Klotz.

Gabrielle Adams is an assistant professor of public policy and business administration at the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy at the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia.

Finally, Katy discusses ways to identify opportunities to subtract things from your life that may end up making you better off.

Choiceology is an original podcast from Charles Schwab. 

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