Working solo

Constraint as a seed for creativity

By Pawel Orzechowski and Derek Jones

Background

Do you ever get the feeling that your head is bursting with thoughts and ideas? This can actually be counter-productive for your research. When it gets too much, your thinking might need to converge to help you move forward.

Think about haiku: three lines, five-seven-five syllables. Haiku are very restrictive but lead to such creative output that it is worth considering why. While abundance can be an interesting and (apparently) effective environment in which to work, the truly amazing comes from limited resources.

In architecture, there is an urban myth that the best architecture comes in times of recession: fewer projects and limited resources encourage more time and thinking applied to what is available, leading to significant innovation. Jugaad, jua kali and rasquachismo are all international flavours of ‘make do and mend’ cultures that have existed since the start of humanity (U101 Course Team, 2013). Similarly, research shows that limiting choice can have a positive effect on the creative process (Costello and Keane, 2000; Stokes, 2001; Sellier & Dahl, 2011).

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