Obstacles Make You Creative

Did you know that setting constraints for yourself will make your work even better ? I always thought that if there are no restrictions then your creative juices flow like a the mighty amazon and you can create incredible pieces of work. But, turns out, by placing constraints, we are forcing our brain to solve problems to get over the constraints and there by making it even more alert to new ways of thinking and processing information.

Hey, don’t take my word for it. Wired magazine is world famous. According to a new article in Wired.com researchers at Amsterdam University have done studies that reveal this mildly surprising phenomenon. In their experiments, the researchers forced test subjects to perform a manual task while trying to come up with as many anagrams as possible. One needs to be able to think in multiple ways to form anagrams. In all cases the participants who were forced to do the tedious task came up with more anagrams than the control group that did not do the tedious task. There were other experiments conducted by the scientists and all of them yielded similar results. Whenever the subjects had something restricting their creative work, their brains over compensated, resulting in increased creativity. Results from these experiments have been published in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

This explanation makes sense because we often seem to produce surprisingly good results whenever we face something impossible, whether it’s an inescapable project deadline or just coming up with brilliant excuses for your boss. From my personal experience, the excuses tend to be much more interesting and believable if I don’t have enough time to think about them. Evidently, the restraint which is lack of time in this case, increases my creative powers to come up with exemplary lies, err, I mean excuses.

Have you experienced this in your personal or professional life ?

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2 thoughts on “Obstacles Make You Creative

  1. I have experienced this, yet there are two distinct ways to create and participate in ideation.

    1. Work hard. Work very hard. Set a time constraint. Yes, but then take a break and come back to the work with new, fresh eyes and a fresh perspective.

    2. Let the idea ‘come to you.’ This is why we have so many creative ideas doing repetitive tasks like showering, washing dishes, mowing the lawn, cleaning etc. In essence, this is the opposite of the ‘constraint’ theory.

    I think you must have both.

    1. Thanks for the comment Andrew.
      You are right, both strategies can be used to get optimal results. Usually the idea that ‘comes’ to you is not fully formed and very fuzzy. But there are lots of them. One has to put his or her down to that vague idea and give it definition and shape. while doing that, having a constraint, like deadline or budget limit would be beneficial.

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