Constraints and creativity

The word “constraint” tends to conjure up images of limitations that crush creativity.

The images start from an early age.

“We don’t have time for you to build that sand castle.”

“Finish your picture because class is over.”

In reality, creativity thrives when well defined constraints are present. The above scenarios were poorly defined time constraints that you couldn’t manage. As a child, you didn’t know when class was about to end. As an adult, you know when the project deadline is in a week, and you need to have a finished prototype by then. Suddenly your creative wheels start spinning about how to make it happen.

On the other hand, if your boss said, “have the project done soon.” You wouldn’t quite know your constraints, and thus your creativity wouldn’t know how to behave.

It’s the same case if someone says “‘make it cheap.” That’s great, except how can we problem solve around the fuzzy constraint of cheap? “Make sure it costs less than $5.” Now we can get to work and figure something out.

Don’t be afraid of constraints. They boost your creativity as long as you define them and manage them.