Creativity tip: Constraint and limitations

The way to get good ideas is to get lots of ideas and throw the bad ones away. — Linus Pauling

In previous creativity tips, I have given you a few tips on how to generate new ideas.

And as Nobel prize winner Linus Pauling rightly points out, you need to have a lot of ideas to be able to have a few good ones.

Often enough we are so happy to have found a great idea that we jump though hoops to get it implemented right away.

And it is exactly at that point where we should sometimes try to restrain and constrain ourselves, yes even give ourselves some limitations.

This may sound contradictory.

Ideas circulate when we let our mind wander loosely, when we have no limitations to what is possible, when we fantasize, when we combine the seemingly uncombinable (is that a word? – it is now!).

But let’s experiment. Let’s take your great idea and list 7 or 8 major elements that make up this

Let’s say I want to launch a project that circulates new ideas among employees, a sort of black media box, with a theme each month (far from the work floor, such as ‘Success’ or ‘Happiness’), You Tube videos will be shown on the subject, community partners will be interviewed etc.

The major elements would be:

  1. Physical Black Box (contradicting elements: constraining people to a box to give them horizon enlarging inspiration)
  2. One theme a month, subjects not work related
  3. Internet contribution (Youtube, TED etc)
  4. Community interviews on the subject (with the local cycling star, the farmer next door, the owner of the grocery store, etc)
  5. Employee contribution on the subject (anything that inspires them on that subject and that can be communicated via the black box)
  6. Benefits:
    * community partners get free publicity among company’s employees
    * employees get freebies from community partners during the month (free milk tasting at the farmer, discount at the grocery store, etc)
    * company gets employees that become more creative through this stimulation
  7. Low cost, high impact.

Now, let’s eliminate 3 of them. Go ahead, pick any 3.

In what ways would my creation change if I developed it without these 3 elements?

This constraint can trigger new, original, useful ideas, which might actually spice up the project a bit.

Try it at home :-)

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