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Innovation Insights by Stephen Shapiro

Here’s the transcription of my Monday Morning Movie

This morning I want to talk about the power of positive constraints. In the world of innovation, there seems to be this belief that we’re supposed to let everybody be free thinkers and let them do whatever they want. But, this actually destroys innovation. We need structure. We need constraints.

I’ll give you a really simple example. If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll notice that about a month ago, I made a bit of a change.

Now, instead of just writing whenever I feel inspired to write or writing about whatever I want to write about, I’ve created structure. Mondays, there’s always a Monday Morning Movie. Tuesday, there’ll always be the transcription of the movie, along with on some weeks, a Tuesday Travel Tip. Wednesday is my Wednesday Work Wisdom. Friday is my Friday Fun Fact. As a result, over the past month without fail, there has been a minimum of four blog entries and, in some weeks, I’ve had five or six.

If you turn back the clock, you’ll notice that when I didn’t have structure, when I didn’t have those positive constraints, there would be some weeks where I might have only one.  And there would be even a period of time where I wouldn’t write at all. So, constraints are actually a very good thing. First of all, because they give us a little bit of structure and it forces us to think a little more clearly around something. It gives us something to work around. But also, it sort of sets a tone for what we need to get done. If I’m committing to doing certain things every day, and I can do those constraints consistently, that’s very valuable.

And it’s not just about publicly declaring that on Monday, you can expect one of these videos. There’s another value that comes from having positive constraints…

It also reduces the level of thinking I need to do. This actually allows me to be more creative. If I gave you a blank sheet of paper and said, “Hey, come up with a great idea on how to improve your business,” you might come up with a lot of ideas. Probably, most of them would be pretty bad and I also suspect that you would struggle to come up with some great ideas.

On the other hand, if we worked on defining a really good problem statement – identifying what is the one area of your business where there is the greatest opportunity; identifying where you differentiate yourself from your competitors – that might actually give you even better results, more creativity, and even more value.

Constraints are not bad. We seem to think that we want people to “think outside the box,” but anybody who’s been following my work knows that I think instead, what we need is a better box (aka constraints).

Being organized; procedures; having a better box.

These are not bad things. These are things that will actually increase and enhance your level of creativity. So, look at an area in your life where you’re struggling to get things done.

Maybe part of the issue is confusion and a lack of clarity. Lack of clarity actually comes out of a lack of constraints. Constraints will give you clarity. Anytime that you feel stuck or confused, think about what structures you could put in place that would keep you accountable, that would keep you on track and keep you on target, and also improve your level of creativity.

When you start to think about positive constraints as a positive thing, I promise you, you will enhance your creativity massively.

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