The Truth About Creativity and Constraints

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There's a common misconception about creativity that has the unfortunate effect of actually stifling creativity, rather than stimulating it.

If you're a video person, I lay it all out in the video below. If reading is more your thing, skip the video and hop straight to the transcript below!

Hey there, Bill Stainton here with Turning Creativity into Money™, and, you know, there's, there's this idea floating around that somehow creativity has to be completely untethered. That creative people have to be free to create anything they want. That creativity hates constraints, creativity, creativity and constraints have nothing to do with each other, with each other they're anathema to each other.

And that's not true. It's not true at all. In fact, creativity loves constraints. Creative people love constraints.

I can prove it to you.

I want you to try this with, with creative people you know. Go up to them and ask them to write a story about one of two things. Number one: anything they want. Or number two: a duck that wears a hat.

I guarantee you the majority, probably the large majority, will jump at the second one.


Because it gives them a focus for their creativity. Otherwise, you know, you know, "Write a story about anything you want," it's like, "I don't even know where to start. That's that's too big. But, ooh, a duck that wears a hat...."

In fact, when I said that, I'm guessing some of you already started to write it, to write a story. Or at least you started to ask questions. "Ooh, why does the duck wear a hat? What kind of hat is it? What color is the hat? What kind of duck is it?"

See, all those things are now open for creativity. But now you've got a focus, you've got something that you can latch on to.

And creative people love that, they love that kind of a challenge. See when, when, when you say the word constraint, they think of it as challenge, and creative people love a challenge. Because they can sink their teeth into a challenge. It's all about trying to solve a problem, and creative people love solving problems.

Which is why engineers—and this is, you know, goes against common wisdom—engineers are some of the most creative people I know, because they like solving problems. They like getting inside, seeing how things work. They're curious about that kind of thing.

So, don't think that creativity needs completely, needs to be completely untethered. If, if you come at it that way, you're going to stifle your own creativity and the creativity of your team.

Instead, provide the creative people with challenges. You can call them constraints if you want, but provide them with challenges. Provide them with something that they can focus their creativity on.

You do that, you're gonna get more creative ideas. Ideas that will move the needle for you and your team.

I'm Bill Stainton. I'll be back next time with more ideas of how you can Turn Your Creativity into Money™.

About the Author:

29-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Bill Stainton, CSP is an expert on Innovation, Creativity, and Breakthrough Thinking. He helps leaders and their teams come up with innovative solutions — on demand — to their most challenging problems.
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