Innovation thrives on constraints. Ideas that are bounded can flourish. Creativity blossoms when parameters are defined.
When I share this thinking with innovation clients, they often shake their heads and say, No, Terri, you don’t understand. We’d be fine if only we had… more budget, more time, more people, more support.
But unlimited resources can be the death of new ideas. When anything is possible, where to begin? We could do this. Or that. Or maybe even that. A wide-open playing field can be terrifying — and stifling.
Constraints Provide Clarity
A painter is bounded by the size of
When designers take on a project for a client, the first order of business is to prepare a creative brief. This document captures the goals and boundaries of the project. For example, a client says they need a website. OK, the designer replies, let’s talk about the parameters. What will be its intended result? Who are the targeted visitors? Will you be the only one contributing content? Who will be managing it? Does it need to fit in with existing brand identity? Will you be doing e-commerce from this site? What budget has been allocated to this project? Have you established a timeline? All these questions, and many more, take an amorphous idea — we need a website — and transform it into a project that can be planned and executed.
Boundaries Fuel Innovation
Similarly, innovation projects that begin with wide-open brainstorming — let’s get everyone in the room and see what emerges — can bring frustration and disappointing results. In contrast, approaches such as Outcome-Driven Innovation focus on customer value creation and clearly defined measurable results. Asking “What do you want this to do for you?” has become one of my most important early questions when working with clients. It signals: Let’s get clear on what you want to achieve, and what the boundaries are. Then we can creatively move forward.
The next time you find yourself lamenting the fact that you don’t have a resource — whether time, money, staff,
My challenge for you this week: Review the limitations you perceive in your work in a new light. Wear the hat of an artist or designer and gain inspiration from constraints.