TODAY'S GUEST Dr. Leidy Klotz is the Copenhaver Associate Professor at the University of Virginia, where he is appointed in the Schools of Engineering, Architecture, and Business. He co-founded and co-directs the university's Convergent Behavioral Science Initiative, which engages and supports applied, interdisciplinary research.


Leidy studies how we transform things from the way they are to the way we want them to be. His research on the science of design has appeared in both Nature and Science, and he has written for The Washington Post, Fast Company, Lit Hub, and the Behavioral Scientist. Leidy has authored more than 80 original research articles and secured more than $10 million in competitive funding to support his and others' work in this area.



In this conversation we talk about:

  • His early career as a soccer player.
  • Studying engineering.
  • His aha! moment when playing Legos with his son, which led to his breakthrough research and proof that people systematically overlook subtractive changes when considering a solution.


We also discuss:

  • Adding versus subtracting.
  • His book, Subtract.
  • On adding as a strategy against entropy.
  • On great examples of functional subtraction.
  • Subtracting in design and in civilization in general.
  • On loss aversion as a possible driver.
  • On minimalism.
  • And many other topics.


Leidy's insights are especially crucial for designers, and has encouraged me to incorporate a moment of subtraction in our design processes. I think we'd all be better off if our products, our laws, our routines, and our homes, occasionally got simpler, instead of more complex.


This conversation is one of a dozen or so weekly conversations we already have lined up for you with top thinkers, designers, makers, authors, entrepreneurs, and impact investors who are working to change our world for the better. So follow this podcast on your favorite podcast app, or head over to to subscribe.


And now let's jump right in with Dr. Leidy Klotz.




[4:06] Life During Covid

[10:06] Early Childhood Lessons

[12:31] Transitioning

[15:16] An Aha! Moment

[21:31] Adding Versus Subtracting

[23:27] The Biology of Subtracting

[27:52] Entropy

[32:12] Functional Subtraction

[38:46] Loss Aversion

[42:17] The Civilizational Level of Adding and Subtracting

[48:45] Subtracting in Design

[51:53] A Subtraction Clause

[55:22] Spirituality in Subtracting

[1:06:05] A Short Sermon