Matthew E. May

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Matthew E. May
Matthew E. May at Edmunds Hackomotive.jpg
Born Baltimore, Maryland
Alma mater Johns Hopkins University, B.A
Wharton School of Business, M.B.A.
Occupation Author

Matthew E. May is an American author. He is best known for his five books: The Elegant Solution, In Pursuit of Elegance, The Shibumi Strategy, The Laws of Subtraction, and Winning the Brain Game: Fixing the 7 Fatal Flaws of Thinking.


May graduated with a BA from Johns Hopkins University in 1981, and from the Wharton School of Business in 1985 with an MBA.[1]

The Elegant Solution[edit]

In 2007, May published the book The Elegant Solution: Toyota's Formula for Mastering Innovation. The book is based upon the lessons May learned as a consultant at University of Toyota, specifically as the company was making an effort to export the principles of its Toyota Production System to other areas of the company. From this experience, May has stated there are 3 principles (the art of ingenuity; the pursuit of perfection; and the rhythm of fit) and 10 practices that set Toyota apart from its competitors. Katherine Radeka reviewed the work, writing that, “Rather than copy Toyota’s activities, May seems to ask his readers to internalize the underlying thoughts and then to develop their own activities.”[2]

In Pursuit of Elegance[edit]

In 2009, May followed up his first book with the work In Pursuit of Elegance: Why the Best Ideas Have Something Missing. This work distills “elegance” as the chief goal and principle that should be sought in business operations. May further distills elegance down to the sub-principles of Symmetry, Seduction, Subtraction, and Sustainability.[3] The book focuses on a business audience, seeking to address business solutions specifically with his principles. Oliver Ho reviewed the work, writing that in the book May had, “an interesting sense of synthesis and ability to find connections across various fields, from pop culture to fine arts, science to sports.”[4]

The Shibumi Strategy[edit]

In 2010, May published the book The Shibumi Strategy: A Powerful Way to Create Meaningful Change. In May’s book, writes of zen principles such as kanso and koko, and how they help Japanese business executives to arrive at simpler and more elegant solutions than many of their Western counterparts.[5] The book advocates the implementation of Japanese aesthetics into Western life, and the seeking of an even-minded and peaceful response to work stress. The title of the book comes from an untranslatable Japanese concept shibui, referring to something approximately “the height of personal excellence and total clarity”. May separates the steps to approaching this strategy as: commitment, preparation, struggle, breakthrough and transformation.[6]

The Laws of Subtraction[edit]

In 2012, May published the book The Laws of Subtraction: 6 Simple Rules for Winning in the Age of Excess Everything.[1] Max Nisen described the book as, “May and a series of business executives, creatives, and thought leaders” focusing on the “ability to simplify and remove complexity, rather than just adding more.” May’s six laws break down the concept into a methodology to be used in management or development environments.[7] The book is an extension of the principle of Subtraction as found in his book In Pursuit of Elegance.[8]

Winning the Brain Game[edit]

In 2016, May published the book Winning the Brain Game: Fixing the 7 Fatal Flaws of Thinking. The book is based on May’s fieldwork over a 10-year period in which he gave over 100,000 business professionals a simple thought exercise, based on a real case far less complex that their routine business problems. Less than 5% arrived at the solution. May not only catalogues his observations into seven primary cognition patterns he calls “flaws," but also calls on modern neuropsychology to explain the brain functions causing the flaws. He then enlists the guidance of renowned thinkers to offer practical techniques to neutralize the flaws.[1]

Other work[edit]

May is a contributor to a number of newspapers, reviews, and magazines. He is a winner of the New Yorker Magazine Cartoon Caption Contest.[9]


External links[edit]