For A More Creative Brain, Embrace Constraints (Limitations Inspire Better Thinking)

Limitations are crucial to achieving breakthrough innovation.

Photo by Lucas Sankey on Unsplash

Limitations are crucial to achieving breakthrough innovation.

Use them to your advantage.

Obstacles boost brainpower.

You actually need constraints to get good at creating something remarkable.

You need the limitations to inspire better thinking — thinking that challenges the status quo.

Scott Barry Kaufman, Ph.D., author of Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind,notes that creativity “involves variability — different ways of doing things” but also “involves constraints, which can either promote or preclude creativity.”

Your brain is constantly in efficient mode, looking for ways to use less energy. And often, unless forced, you don’t think much at all.

Constraints force you to think.

Believe it, or not, human creativity benefits from constraints.

For too long, limitations, problems and obstacles have been constraints, they need to be the bridges.

“The imagination is unleashed by constraints. You break out of the box by stepping into shackles,” says Jonah Lehrer.

According to psychologists, when you have less to work with, you actually begin to see the world differently.

With constraints, you dedicate your mental energy to acting more resourcefully. When challenged, you figure out new ways to be better.

The most successful creative people know that constraints don’t limit their efforts — in fact, they give their minds the impetus to leap higher.

People who invent new products or launch unconventional ideas are often inspired by their constraints.

They are not limited by what they don’t have or can’t do. They leverage their limitations to even push themselves further.

Dont’ freak out about your constraints, embrace them.

Let them guide you.

Instead of trying to remove them, use them to your advantage.

In his book, “Things a Little Bird Told Me: Confessions of the Creative Mind,” Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter writes, “Embrace your constraints. They are provocative. They are challenging. They wake you up. They make you more creative. They make you better.”

Many products and services are created because the founders saw a limitation in what they use. They created innovation based on what was not working for them at the moment.

Innovation is creative person’s response to limitation

Think about your constraints for a moment — not as barriers to your ability to create, launch or build something new, but instead as a puzzle that holds the opportunity for original work.

In a 2015 study, that examined how thinking about scarcity or abundance influences how creatively people use their resources, Ravi Mehta at the University of Illinois and Meng Zhu at Johns Hopkins University found that people simply have no incentive to use what’s available to them in novel ways.

When people face scarcity, they give themselves the freedom to use resources in less conventional ways because they have to. The situation demands a mental license that would otherwise remain untapped.

In her book, “Creativity from Constraints: The Psychology of Breakthrough, Patricia Stokes argues that “highly creative individuals are comfortable being highly variable.”

According to Stokes, the transition from master to creator comes when the expert imposes novel constraints on their domains.

Obstacles can broaden your perception, open up your thinking processes. Consistent constraints help you improve at connecting unrelated ideas and concepts.

Don’t hide from a challenge. Embrace it and work with it.

You will be amazed at the outcome of your creative pursuits if you make the most of the obstacles.

“Take advantage of your disadvantages, feature the few assets you may have, and work harder than anyone else around you,” says Scott Sonenshein, author of Stretch: Unlock the Power of Less — and Achieve More Than You Ever Imagined.”

Constraints play a role in many different creative domains, and in many of the most revolutionary creative products of our time.

Different obstacles and limitations affect the outcome of projects depending on the domain in question, the creator, the goal, subject, and tasks.

Marissa Mayer, former vice-president for search products and user experience at Google once wrote in a publication on Bloomberg, “Constraints shape and focus problems and provide clear challenges to overcome. Creativity thrives best when constrained.”

Your limitations are starting point for seemingly endless creativity and possibility. Use them to your advantage.

Igor Stravinsky once said: “The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees one’s self. And the arbitrariness of the constraint serves only to obtain precision of execution.”

To create something unique in your niche, start with your constraints. Don’t stop because you have limited resources. Force yourself to think outside the box.

Your creative constraints are the foundational elements of your great work.

Look beyond the current rules, the norms, the procedures and the policies. Look beyond the obvious.

Get used to being uncomfortable to think smarter.

“Embrace your constraints” to do more, pursue your dreams, or launch your remarkable idea.

By considering novel constraints, you will force yourself to figure out how to resolve issues in different ways.

Before you go…

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