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The Other Side of Constraints

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To my shame, I missed writing last week and I don’t think I’ll be able to ship my Carmen Sandiego-like game this month due to budget constraints and some other exciting news (my first missed ship! but not to worry, I’ll be keeping it in my queue of things to finish). Still, I had a great conversation last Friday which made me want to dig a little deeper.

To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time.

Leonard Bernstein

A couple of months ago, there was a Twitter chat about constraints. The general consensus (which I agree with) was that constraints can help us be more creative by stopping us from planning or prototyping ourselves into infinity. At some point, due to budget or time or some other finite resource, constraints force you to ship whatever project it is that you’re working on. But there can be another side to them. Namely, constraints can sometime give us just the excuse we need to not strive for excellence. Consider this: you’re working on an elearning project and you think of a big idea. A norm-busting idea. Andddd it gets shot down almost immediately. Why? Because resources. Given the current climate, given the current tools, given the current budget, you’re told, we just can’t do this thing.

Now, those constraints absolutely exist. And they are valid. The problem is, as the person I was talking to put it, when you limit your thinking this way, you will always come up with something less than. As much as I honor reality and constraints, I also firmly believe that if you stop yourself from having the big idea because you don’t think you can do it, you’ll never progress because you’ll never push yourself, your team, or your organization to rise to a new level.

How do you balance real constraints with the need to push forward? For myself, I’ve found the key is to never limit my thinking, even if I have to rework my implementation at some later stage. I work to always allow myself to have (and to speak) the big idea.



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