Sunday, March 6, 2016

Try Cooking With One Hand Tied: the power of constraints

image from pixabay under Creative Commons license
I'm sure you've read about how constraints can help creativity.  A deadline, limited resources, or the ability to only use spaghetti and marshmallows can yield amazing results.  But how do you put this into practice?  How do you “get good” at this.  There's no better way than, well, practice.

Here’s your first exercise.  Set yourself the task of cooking your next meal (or pick something else you do regularly) with one hand tied behind your back.  It’s that simple.  Necessity is the mother of invention, and you’ll soon find it necessary to be very inventive.  How do you tie one hand behind your back?  That’s your first challenge.  Look in your tool drawer, your closet, or your office and figure it out.  I believe in you.  A little doubtful?  Here’s why you should give it a try.

Perspective and Empathy
Creativity and innovation is all about gaining new perspectives.  Sure, you can take a vacation to an exotic land, but for those of us with smaller budgets, you can do this in your own home.  Tying an arm, a leg, or doing things blindfolded helps you experience the world in a different way.  Notice how this changes what is easy and what is hard.  How does it affect the decisions you make, the tools you use?  How might this help you understand and empathize with people with different tools, resources, and physical abilities than you?

After a while, you’ll get good at doing things with one hand.  Now you’re cooking.  Notice how quickly you’ve adapted to the new situation.  How have you changed your workflow?  What do you do differently to streamline things and make it easier to do with one hand?  Notice how things aren’t taking twice as long.  Revel in the human ability to adapt quickly and remember this when solving problems in the future.  People never stay still, so your innovations should never assume they will.

Inspiration and Innovation
Now let’s leverage your new insights.  What could you build (later when you have two hands) to make your life easier one handed?  Wouldn’t this be useful for people with two hands as well?  By making things harder, you exaggerated the inefficiencies in your tasks and made them visible.  Now solve those with innovations in tools and workflows.

Never been more excited to tie yourself up right?  So give it a try.  Set yourself up some fun challenges.  Try doing some gardening or take out the trash, but now, with more difficulty and fun.  If you can play the guitar with one hand, then you can play two guitars at once.  Have some fun with it.  Try one leg, a blindfold, or only being able to speak nouns.  Make this a regular game, and you’ll have cheap entertainment and a way to hone your innovation skills for life.