In the world of innovation, there seems to be this belief that we’re supposed to let everybody be free thinkers and let them do whatever they want. But this actually destroys innovation. We need structure. We need constraints.
I’ll give you a really simple example.
If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll notice that about a month ago, I made a bit of a change.
Now, instead of just writing whenever I feel inspired to do so or writing about whatever I want, I created structure.
Mondays, there’s a Monday Morning Movie. Tuesday, there’ll always be the transcription of the movie and an occasional Tuesday Travel Tip. Wednesday is my Wednesday Work Wisdom. And Friday is my Friday Fun Fact. (Check out my article to see how the makers of Star Trek effectively used the Power of Positive Constraints https://tinyurl.com/brye9ct)
As a result, over the past month, without fail, there has been a minimum of four blog entries and, in some weeks there have been five or six.
You’ll notice that when I didn’t have structure, when I didn’t have those positive constraints, there would be some weeks where I would have only one entry. And there would even be periods of time where I wouldn’t write at all.
Constraints are actually a good thing. First of all, they give us structure, forcing us to think more clearly around something specific. But it also sets a tone for what we need to get done. If I’m committing to completing certain things every day, and I can do those activities consistently, that’s very valuable.
And it’s not just about publicly declaring what you will get done. There’s another value that comes from having positive constraints: It reduces the level of thinking you need to do so that it allows you to be more creative.
If I gave you a blank sheet of paper and said, “Hey, come up with a great idea on how to improve your business,” you might come up with a lot of ideas. Probably, most would be pretty bad.
And I suspect that you would actually struggle to generate even a few great ideas. When given no constraints, we don’t know where to begin.
On the other hand, if we worked on defining a really good problem statement – identifying what is the one area of your business where there is the greatest opportunity; identifying where you differentiate yourself from your competitors – that might actually give you even better results, more creativity, and even more value.
Constraints are not bad. We seem to believe that people should “think outside the box,” but anybody who’s been following my work knows that my philosophy is to find a better box (aka constraints).
Being organized, having structure, and working within constraints are not bad. These are things that will actually increase and enhance your level of creativity.
So, look at an area in your life where you’re struggling to get things done. Maybe part of the issue is confusion and a lack of clarity. A lack of clarity comes out of a lack of constraints.
Constraints will give you clarity. Anytime that you feel stuck or confused, think about what structures you could put in place that would keep you accountable, that would keep you on track and on target, and improve your level of creativity.
When you start to think about positive constraints as a positive thing, I promise you, you will enhance your creativity massively.
image credit: charlestonfishing.com
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Stephen Shapiro is the author of five books including “Best Practices Are Stupid” and “Personality Poker” (both published by Penguin). He is also a popular innovation speaker and business advisor.