Creativity is the inverse of dollars, manpower, and time. The fewer project resources you have, the more you need creativity. Limitations are what provoke an individual or company style. The more severe the voluntary limitations, the more exaggerated and clear the personal style becomes. Style is a repetition or pattern.
Examples of severe self-imposed limitations include: Piet Mondrian’s paintings with a grid and only a six-color palette (right image) or Frank Lloyd Wright’s Geometric but Organic Architecture (below.) Because they set boundaries, new personal expression evolved. Creativity isn’t necessarily needed with unlimited resources. When resources are scarce, creativity becomes a secret weapon or hidden asset. Self-imposed limitations help prevent us from being overwhelmed. Limits are a structure that provides freedom by balancing chaos.
Creative Limitations: The Guiding Structure
Creativity is often misunderstood. People think of it in terms of artistic work – unbridled, unguided effort that leads to beautiful effect. If you look deeper, however, you’ll find that some of the most inspiring art forms are full of constraints. They’re beautiful because creativity triumphed with rules. Constraints shape and focus problems, and provide clear challenges to overcome as well as inspiration. Creativity thrives best when constrained.
Yet, constraints must be balanced with a healthy disregard for the impossible. Disregarding the bounds of what we know or what we accept gives rise to ideas that are non-obvious, unconventional, or simply unexplored. The creativity realized in this balance between constraint and disregard for the impossible is fueled by passion and result in revolutionary change.
All people are creative but not all of them have the drive to create. Unconventionality of thought in creative people may be a resistance to surrendering one’s unique fundamental nature. The resistance is expressed usually by borrowing from other cultures or workplaces—or being deliberately radical or odd.
A Journey without a Map: Chaos
Creativity is adaptive. You learn as you go. Generally, the place you start doesn’t even matter. Movement in a direction is all that is required. This is an act of experimental faith leading to discovery. You do not necessarily know the outcome. What matters are the destination or objective and even that will change. Creativity is a process or journey from today to a better future point.
Creativity is finding a way to solve puzzles without all the pieces. Yet, the end result appears whole. This involves developing personalized skills and tools.
“Without order nothing can exist – without chaos nothing can evolve.”
“New ideas are not born in a conforming environment.”
– Roger von Oech, Stanford Ph.D. and creativity theorist