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What is creativity again, and can constraints boost it?
Last Thursday I attended the UX and Product conference and would like to share my thoughts on the topic – together with MacGyver
Creativity is a word often used to describe the joy and ambition to create. “My son is creative; he loves to draw.”
Sorry to tell you, mom, but this doesn’t necessarily mean you’re son is creative. The definition of creativity is actually about the ability to solve a problem with the resources you have available.
So. The philosophical question here is, can we be creative without constraints?
MacGyver is an excellent example of what creativity is. He is often stuck in tricky situations, and he always solves his problems using things around him. I have a pen and a paper. I can use it to create a blowgun, shoot a piece of paper and get me out of here.
Compared to: I have a pen and paper. I made a drawing of a car.
The thing is, we can’t be creative without constraints. Imagine you have endless resources — Elon Musk kind of money, no obligations, and Google-engineers as your team. You are asked to create anything you want.
- I would build a car.
See — That’s not creativity.
Compare it to “I made a vehicle out of a chainsaw and a skateboard because I needed to get somewhere, and that was the resources I had available.”
Constraints = the actual essence of creativity.
We designers are trained in the art of problem-solving. This artform contains methods, processes, and tools to identify, address and solve problems. We focus on one specific problem. We’re not trying to solve just any problem in the world. That’s our first constraint.
The methods we use are the constraints we create. A frame in which we paint, a stage on which we play; a workshop is setting up constraints, to create value. We’re not having a “freeform meeting to come up with ideas”. A design review is setting up constraints around what specific thing to improve. We’re not just having a meeting with opinions on things.
Creatives solve problems within constraints. We’re not just making stuff.
That’s what makes us creative.
That’s what makes us designers.
That’s what also sometimes makes us MacGyver.
Who wants to join a Clubhouse room on the topic?
Me and Alexander are like many others trying to figure out how to use Clubhouse, and would love to have a chat on how constraints deliver value to the end-users/customers. Join in!
Always be shipping is a newsletter on UX / Product Design and Product management by Alexander Forsén and Gunnar Carlén. If you found this letter of value, make sure to get the next one right down in your inbox.