Limited Thinking for Unlimited Ideas

At some point in the innovation process, it pays to limit yourself. As poet T.S. Eliot said, “When forced to work within a strict framework, the imagination is taxed to the utmost—and will produce its richest ideas. Given total freedom the work is likely to sprawl.”

Working with existing restrictions or imposing new restrictions can lead to the most creative leaps of all. Yes, it’s true that even though limitations can sometimes prevent us from being creative, sometimes the exact opposite is true. Imposing a limitation on what kind of ideas to focus on and where we are allowed to put these ideas can lead to great ones.

A long time ago, I was approached (in my capacity as a personal trainer and yoga teacher) to do a men’s fitness DVD for business executives on-the-go. The key to coming up with a program for this DVD was about having minimal equipment (so people wouldn’t have to carry anything around with them).

 What I found was that the limitations increased the creativity. The limitations forced me to create ideas for exercises that I would normally never have considered. What was once a hotel room desk chair became a “triceps dips” apparatus. The result was a successful fitness DVD that’s been sold around the world.

Imposing limits doesn’t have to limit our creativity. See them as an opportunity. Sometimes the more restrictions we have, the more creative we actually can be. One great idea in one little area can make a big difference.

What limitations exist on the project you’re working on at the moment?

Name them. What opportunities can come out of them?



Nils Vesk

Founder of Ideas with Legs | Innovation Speaker | Consultant | Author

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