Two blogs I subscribe to - and recommend - recently came at the 'problem' of constraints very positively, but from slightly different angles.
The first was Roger von Oech's article called Set A Deadline to Goad Your Creative Juices. Roger writes:
When I assign specific open-ended problems to groups in my seminars, I've found that those groups that have less time to generate ideas (e.g., 15 minutes vs. 25 minutes on the same problem) often have better and more creative solutions than the groups with more time. That's because they seem to get right to the point, have less self-censorship, and are less concerned with proper protocol.
The second was from Joyce Wycoff on paradoxically deciding what the constraints are before embarking on a brainstorming exercise. In her article called Criteria .. or Not? she advocates establishing the evaluation criteria at the beginning of an innovation process. I think Joyce is talking about something rather more specific and particular than Roger von Oech here. She concludes:
Knowing and working with the critical constraints seems to help people think far more strategically and creatively as they thread their way through the maze that leads to concepts that create new value for customers and for the organization. Life and the market impose criteria on us, why should we act as if anything goes?
Also, this seems to fly in the face of conventional 'brainstorming' or 'brainblooming' techniques, where the emphasis on the early iterations is on 'no censorship' of ideas. What Joyce says has the ring of truth, and I plan to try this approach.
All this talk of constrains reminds me of the work of Eliyahu Goldratt. I value and respect the work of Goldratt and other on the Theory of Constraints (TOC), as illustrated in such works as Critical Chain, but this is different. The gist of TOC is to identify the most limiting constraint, manage around it, and seek to relax or remove it, if at all possible. The genius of Roger and Joyce's approaches are to treat a constraint as an opportunity, or a catalyst.
What stories do you have where constraints have enabled you rather than have limited you?