Use the Power of Constraints to Develop Innovative Solutions

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By Ryan Fullmer

May 14, 2022

Shift Your Thinking

When you and your team are facing a complex problem, leverage the power of constraints to develop an innovative solution. I know, that doesn't sound right. Constraints seem like bad things. It feels like they take away your options and dampen your creativity. Actually, constraints can be quite the opposite. If you shift your mindset, constraints are a powerful tool for innovation.

Value of Constraints

Consider these four ways constraints can help you push past the obvious and develop ingenious solutions to your customer’s problems.

1 - Help You Get Started

It’s tough to get moving when you are overwhelmed with lots of opportunities and ideas. This will help you filter out some of the initial ideas that are not going to work within the constraints.

2 - Provide Clues to Solve the Problem

Use the constraints as clues to solving the problem. The constraints help you think differently about the problem and drive you to look deeper and solve it in novel ways.

3 - Spark Creativity and Innovation

Constraints drive you to keep refining the solutions. Each constraint sparks new ideas and adjustments till you arrive at a feasible solution that meets the needs.

4 - Guide Your Decisions

You need to make decisions as you work through ideas. Constraints provide criteria for making early decisions. It’s easy to make arbitrary decisions early in the process that may lead you in the wrong direction.

Types of Constraints

There are different types of constraints that you should consider. Here are several categories of constraints to consider:

  • Financial - Is there a budget limit? Funding or revenue considerations?
  • Time - Are there milestone dates or delivery targets to meet? Are there schedule constraints from partners or other teams?
  • RegulatoryDoes the solution need to meet legal or policy requirements?
  • Capabilities / Design - What limitations exist in relation to people, skills, or technology? Are there design standards or other constraints that apply to the solution?
  • Scope - What has been decided to be in scope? Are there things that have been determined to be out of scope?

When we work with our clients, we provide a Constraints Canvas to help them think through these categories. Having a visual tool helps to keep it lightweight, visual and repeatable. This also helps them remember to do this step before brainstorming solutions.

Get Clear on the Problem First

Before you start identifying constraints, make sure the problem you are trying to solve is really clear. If you are curious about how we get clarity on the problem, click here to download our free guide

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