Constraints Beget Creativity

Complete this drawing:

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An uninspired artist could easily come up with a solution that would not be appropriate to post here. And then there are brilliant solutions like this one by David Jablow:

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Constraints can be seen as either an excuse to do something lame, or an invitation to do something extraordinary.

During the 2008 election, a couple of startup founders had some constraints. They were building a company where homeowners provided guests with an airbed and breakfast. They were also broke.

Given these constraints, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia created a cereal called Obama O’s. The cereal was originally intended to be given to hosts for use as a breakfast offering, but it quickly became a collectors’ item that sold for hundreds on ebay.

obamaos

In order to think outside the box, first there needs to be a box. Life is a series of real-world optimization problems where we are constantly seeking the best available solution. In the absence of boundary conditions, the solution set is infinite and no one solution is better than another.

Given a blank canvas or a pile of money, the default action is to do what has always been done. Kellogs, with its billions of cash, hasn’t made anything interesting since 1953, when it created Honey Smacks, a cereal that is 55% sugar.

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I guess that’s kind of good too.

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