Use limits to spur creativity

For comedian John Cleese, it’s all about boundaries. Unlimited time and space do not a creative genius make. “You have to give yourself a starting time and a finishing time, because when you do that, you’ve created an oasis that is separate from ordinary life,” says the Monty Python star. “Then, and only then, can you play.” It’s true, then, that necessity is the mother of invention? Absolutely, according to creative thinking blogger, Ryan Chadwick. “It may seem counterintuitive, but we often need to restrict people’s movements in some areas to force them to be free in others,” he says, recalling an exercise where people were given $1 million and asked to come up with innovative new business ideas. The results weren’t inspiring, he recalls: the large sum meant people felt too comfortable to take risks, they had too much choice, and there was no real challenge. Reduce the amount to $1,000 and things got more interesting. “We got more ideas and more creative ideas,” Chadwick says. “The new restriction meant that it was now a challenge.  It also meant that they couldn’t just go with what they would normally consider. It became fun.” Acclaimed New York-based designer, Damien Correll, uses self-imposed constraints as a discipline to spur creativity. “I think if you’re given a clean, fresh palette, and you do whatever you want, it’s almost too much freedom, at least for me,” he says. “Constraints usually make me think in a different way than I would maybe naturally think. I find they make the process a little more enjoyable and the final output is usually something I’m more proud of.”

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