Constraints Make You More Creative
If you have the use of your hands, it’s a simple thing to eat a plateful of spaghetti by swirling the pasta around your fork and lifting it to your mouth. But what if you had both hands tied behind your back? Or you weren’t allowed to use your thumbs? Those constraints would force you to be much more creative (and likely a bit more messy) to eat that same plate of spaghetti with a fork.
These circumstances might scare some people, but for creative thinkers it’s an opportunity to solve interesting problems.
Lack of resources such as personnel, budget, and time are all constraints that can make you crumble or make you more creative.
One of my favorite movies is Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It’s a ridiculous retelling of King Arthur’s quest for the Holy Grail as only Monty Python stars Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin could tell it.
One of my favorite gags in the movie is that none of the heroes are really ever seen on horseback. Instead they use their own legs to “gallop” across the countryside followed by squires who are clapping coconut shells together in order to make the sound of horse hooves behind them.
It’s absurd and ridiculous and exactly what you’d expect from this troupe of comedians — except it was never something they planned to do from the beginning. According to a John Cleese interview on Late Night with Seth Meyers (video below), they simply didn’t have the budget to use real horses in the movie. So instead of trying to hide the fact their knights had no mounts — they embraced the constraint and allowed it spark a creative solution. One that could solve a problem and still meet their goal of entertaining the audience.
The next time you run into a brick wall on a project, think about how you can incorporate the wall into the project itself or how you might disassemble the wall and build something useful from all those wonderful bricks.
Don’t let the constraints confine you, allow the constraints to force you to come up with a more creative solution.