Less is More

I constantly struggle with saying too much. To be honest? I often lose that struggle.

I lose because I want to explain more. I want to address every question that might come up. I want to make sure there is an understanding.

Paradoxically, though, after a point, more information complicates the topic. It becomes more confusing, not less.

Lately I’ve been deleting whole sentences. It’s OK to leave something open for people to ask about.

I thought of this today because of a recent art exploration, using yarn or string to mask paint, picking up the unmasked paint with paper, then removing the yarn/string and picking up the rest. The idea is to aim for what you want in the 2nd print.

I was underwhelmed with the effect in the video I watched. And then I did it. And I LOVED it. And I realized that with very few lines, a lot can be evoked in a drawing.

2 prints of pears in blue with purple tinges. The one on the left is the first print, where the outline of the pear and the internal texture is left blank with paint filling in the rest. The one on the right, the target image, has the most paint where the yarn was.

With the first set of prints, I added in some texture in the center of the pair. But I realized – I did not need to. It would be every bit a pear, with that detail removed.

So I tried another experiment, and like the pear, I really like how this came out:

Same style as before, but this time 1 image - just the 2nd print of what the yarn left behind. The image is of a pumpkin and the lines are in orange.

A reminder that less can be more. In art, in speaking, and in correspondence.

I will (ironically) add a caveat here, which echoes Teresa Torres – drawings can say so much with just a few lines – more so than just a few words or sentences. I’m glad to have this reinforced even though I have yet to work on my own product management drawing habit.

Artistic Wandering and Product Management

So much of what we hear, see, and make is shaped by always changing, multi-layered sets of ideas and ideals. Art helps me level up so many skills; among them, the ability to follow a wandering path, make connections, and build understanding.

I got back to playing with paints on a gelatin plate and made some art I like. My definition of art is extremely vague: “something created with intention and/or meaning.” Here’s an example:

paper on print rectangle art Abstract

This piece’s intention is technique-based – I was following a lesson to use a paintbrush to paint on the plate, then apply a printing technique.

I painted, then put netting between the paint and the paper.

In this way, I intentionally made a print that was different from painting directly on the paper.

What does this have to do with product management? I find that being creative and letting my mind wander helps me understand my thoughts, opens up my mind, and creates new neural pathways. Increasing my ability to understand thoughts and patterns is directly related to leveling up my Product Management skills.

It also feels good, scientifically.

Another PM superpower is listening. One way to develop listening skills is to listen to myself. What does my own inner monologue reveal about the connections I make? What do I do when something isn’t going as planned? Am I deeply invested in the direction I want the art to go in – why or why not? Am I satisfied if my art turns out different than I intended?

My starting limits were the size of the gelatin plate – 5″x7″ (approx 13 x 18cm) – and the paints I used. I was using a new set of paints that had 6 colors: yellow, red, magenta, blue, green and white. I decided to only use newsprint to print on – I have other materials but it had been months since I painted, so I wanted to keep it simple.

Here’s what I created, and my inner monologue. See how my thoughts translated into the artwork:

blue, red, yellow and green all interplay in this abstract art print

It’s Pride month, I’ll start with bi pride colors, blue on top.

White for the middle of the plate, magenta on the bottom, then I’ll combine them for purple in the middle.

Before I combine, this blue/white/magenta reminds me of the French flag. France . . . cheese! I’ll paint yellow triangles.

I used most of the colors but not green…the moon is made of green cheese…so some circles in green. And swirls.

OK, now do something with it that gives it a reason to be a print. Let’s run this car with textured tires over the plate. And now let’s apply this bubble wrap. OK, now to put the paper on and print it.

My intention – a bi pride flag – completely changed after I painted a little, and my brain made the connection to the French flag. The end result is something I happen to like to look at. Do I look at it and think of a French cheese, like Camembert? No.

This is practice – going through the process of creating one piece of art. It’s practice following the threads to the initial idea, to the final outcome. It builds up discovery skills. It helps see patterns and make connections – helpful when listening to understand customers, stakeholders and employees. It’s also helpful when creating or updating strategies, tactics and other plans.

So much of what we hear, see, and make is shaped by always changing, multi-layered sets of ideas and ideals. Art helps me level up so many skills; among them, the ability to follow a wandering path, make connections, and build understanding.