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Keep Your Pants On: Using Constraints For Idea Generation

Which would you rather wear to Thanksgiving dinner?

a) Tight pants that are so tight that halt all circulation to your lower extremities

b) Your favorite stretchy pants

Of course, that was a trick question, everyone wants the stretchy pants!  Who would voluntarily choose the constraints and the chafing of tight pants?  Long live the stretchy pants!  And the telecommuting that allows us to work in our underwear - thereby avoiding the constraints that come with any pants at all.

Constraints stifle our ability to consume, but they also block full creativity……….or do they? 

It is common corporate lore that constraints are a buzzkill to one’s innovative edge and that the best ideas come from people who “think outside the box”.  But – if constraints were instead looked upon as the box within which creativity plays well with others, could that reframe this picture?

Without constraints we get:

  • bloated products
  • missed milestones
  • cost overruns

We also don’t get the sense of urgency that taps into our subconscious for some of our greatest ideas.  

Constraints used properly can place just enough pressure to encourage better results.  So next time you really want to think outside the box, consider giving your team a seat at a contained idea buffet and encourage them to explore, collaborate, and have fun. 

Just make sure they keep their pants on - and think inside the box!