Time to read: 2 mins
When we hear or use the term constraints, we usually associate it with a negative or limiting connotation, which align perfectly with its dictionary definition.
We deal with constraints every day and in all aspects of our lives. They are all around us; they exist in our personal relationships, the sports we play, the entertainment we watch and the video games that we play (yes, I play video games… A LOT)
In some instances constraints are needed, but they don’t necessarily need to be viewed in a negatively light, in fact quite the opposite is true. Constraints can provide a positive benefit.
Let’s look at some examples where constraints are beneficial.
In marriage the obvious constraints that you remain exclusive to one person. The benefits of this constraint is that you achieve a deeper level of intimacy, caring and understanding of your partner that you otherwise would not be able to achieve with another person.
In sports there are rules (or constraints) that will determine what a player can’t do. As an example in basketball you can’t bounce the ball with two hands, you can’t take more than two steps while holding the ball, etc. With these types of constraints it’s a lot harder to get around opposing players, but by having these rules in place it makes us appreciate the level of skill required to dribble the ball.
Without these constraints moves such as the crossover, behind-the-back and spin move that we as fans find so entertaining to watch would never have been invented.
Another example is the comedic style of Jerry Seinfeld. Jerry decided to put a constraint on himself . He would only tell jokes about everyday mundane task that we all perform. A little different to what we normally see in a standup comedy.
When you think about imposing such a constraint like Jerry did, it forced him to be incredibly focused about his subject matter and extremely creative within the boundaries that he set. Even more creative then someone with no constraints. Comedian’s without constraints usually fall back on using crude humor and dropping the F bomb every so often.
Time for a new definition?
Businesses today face new types of constraints on a more regular basis as change becomes the only constant. There is a need to create more with less of everything, whether it is less people, money and/or time. So how businesses and knowledge workers choose to perceive these constraints makes all the difference.
A constraint can either limit your belief of what is possible and will compromise what we originally set out to achieve to the point where we start to scale back our ambition.
Alternatively constraints can be the catalyst to innovation that will bring about solutions that can provide a tremendous about of benefits.
In the book A Beautiful Constrain (where most of these idea have come from) Adam Morgan and Mark Barden, predicts that a new definition is needed for the term ‘constraint’, the next google search might say something like..
“A limitation or defining parameter, which often is a stimulus for doing things better.”