Paradox Pair #27: Constraints & Progress

When we have complete freedom we lack the guardrails that keep us focused. With constraints in place, when we are assigned something hard, we find we do rise to the challenge.

Paradox Pair #27: Constraints & Progress
Constraints & Progress, James LaPlaine

When we have complete freedom we lack the guardrails that keep us focused. When we run into a challenge, without restrictions, it is easy to justify scrapping what we started. Our switching costs seem low because we lack urgency. Complacency begins to grow. However, we know the long-term costs of half implemented projects: aging technology without a responsible tending party, mounting security risks, duplicative solutions that require resources, and the burden of using some of our brainpower to remember how that thing functions.

When we are under a deadline to perform, that pressure keeps us in check, our eyes on the prize. Innovation happens under constraints — when it truly matters. We know this intuitively — when assigned something hard, we find we do rise to the challenge. It is also why so many leaders stress about mediocrity, they know once you settle for half of a solution, it takes tremendous efforts to rebuild urgency and strive for better.

Constraints don’t hinder progress, they encourage it.

The next time you struggle with innovation, take a look at your constraints structure. Instead of blaming them, frame them as creative challenges. -Oguz A. Acar, Murat Tarakci, and Daan van Knippenberg in the Harvard Business Review article "Why Constraints Are Good for Innovation"

See the whole series by viewing the Paradox Pairs Index