The only thing worse than having too many emails is getting very long ones. When I open an email and see a long-winded message followed by a chain of other emails that have to be read as well, I dread it. After all, brevity is a virtue, and I value those emails that are short and efficient.

Now there’s a new app that helps manage the problem, and it is a great example of the Subtraction Technique, one of five in the innovation method, Systematic Inventive Thinking. It’s called “MailTime.” MailTime re-formats and summarizes your mails into a messaging conversation view. It redesigns the way you assign tasks helps you to track information easier.

I downloaded the app, and I love it. Here’s how it works:

Email replies are annoyingly formatted as a series of redundant transcripts, while text messages are nicely displayed as simple back-and-forth conversations. But MailTime makes work and personal email on your smartphone as quick, easy, and fun as sending text messages. MailTime features include:

  • CHAT BUBBLE FORMATTING: Read your email messages in an attractive “chat view,” while also retaining the ability to see the original email thread if desired.
  • ONE CLICK TO-DOS: Quickly assign to-do items for yourself and for others directly from your inbox, plus easily track the status of each pending task.
  • ‘TOO LONG’ EMAIL ALERTS: Just like Twitter prevents you from writing more than 140 characters, MailTime warns you if your email message is too long to be effective (but you can still send it if you want).

To get the most out of the Subtraction technique, you follow five basic steps:

  1. List the product’s or service’s internal components.
  2. Select an essential component and imagine removing it. There are two ways: a. Full Subtraction. The entire component is removed. b. Partial Subtraction. Take one of the features or functions of the component away or diminish it in some way.
  3. Visualize the resulting concept (no matter how strange it seems).
  4. What are the potential benefits, markets, and values? Who would want this new product or service, and why would they find it valuable? If you are trying to solve a specific problem, how can it help address that particular challenge? After you’ve considered the concept “as is” (without that essential component), try replacing the function with something from the Closed World (but not with the original component). You can replace the component with either an internal or external component. What are the potential benefits, markets, and values of the revised concept?
  5. If you decide that this new product or service is valuable, then ask: Is it feasible? Can you actually create these new products? Perform these new services? Why or why not? Is there any way to refine or adapt the idea to make it more viable?

Learn how all five techniques can help you innovate – on demand.