Don’t Crush Your Constraints

Often the very restraints we remove are the constraints necessary to initiate the creativity we seek…without parameters to push against, we have a tendency to wander aimlessly.

It is Monday.  No different than any other Monday.  Just Monday.

Today however, feels a bit different…there is a touch of anxiety…a sense of excitement.  Not because of the afternoon’s monthly staff meeting (which could hardly ever be considered exciting).  Rather, it is in the idea that today’s meeting will be different.  Today will not just be another endless parade of announcements and mandates.

The afternoon has come and the last few staff have settled into their seats.  You push through a short opening filled with reminders and perfunctory announcements…as you can feel yourself gear up for what is to come.

For weeks you have been reading about the importance of building commitment…that people want an opportunity for input, to be heard, to have their voice valued.

And today is that day.  Input will be good.  Even a little conflict.  A dash of drama could not hurt these monthly meetings, which have become more than a little bland.

Today will be about opportunity…opportunity for collaborative input.

So you build it up…what needs to happen, where the group needs to go, and what needs to be accomplished.  You can feel the time is right, so you toss it out there.

What do you think?  What ideas do you have?  What do we need to do?  How can we accomplish this goal?


Nothing.  Not a thing.  The room is all but silent.  Minus a few half-hearted “we could’s”.  A couple of mumbles.  And a lot of shifting and uneasiness.  Your excitement and anxiety wanes profusely as the opportunity falls flat.  Devoid of any input, the group is dismissed.  Meeting adjourned.  Over.

You storm back to your office…discouraged, frustrated, even a little angry.  What is wrong with this group?  Everyone was given an opportunity and nothing.  Is there no commitment?


As leaders, we understand that those within in our organization want an opportunity to be heard.  Input and voice are vital to motivation and commitment.  However, we have to be able to create the conditions that allow us to access that input.

When we construct constraints and provide parameters…we actively petition people to enable that voice and input.  We create the necessary conditions.  Parameters and constraints can serve to spark and unleash our creative and innovative juices.

Parameters and constraints are a starting point, a box for others to push against.  To drive their thinking.  The goal of the leader is to keep those parameters and constraints flexible and malleable…to provoke thinking that allow those walls to be expanded outward.  Increasing creativity and innovation…sparking ideas and valuable input.

It is only when those parameters and constraints are fixed and inflexible that they serve as a disservice.  Eventually evaporating the input necessary for the growth and ongoing success of the organization.

How are you creating the conditions for the creative and innovative input of those in your organization to be accessed?

“…the imagination is unleashed by constraints.  You break out of the box by stepping into shackles.”  Jonah Lehrer


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