It sounds counter-intuitive, but boundaries can actually boost creativity. Think about procrastination — deadlines are often the single factor that ensures projects get done. As Dave Gray commented on his blog, “Creativity is driven by constraints. When we have limited resources — even when the limits are artificial — creative thinking is enhanced. That’s because the fewer resources you have, the more you are forced to rely on your ingenuity.”

When there are no boundaries, the possibilities may seem too large. That’s why some of the greatest art and innovation has come from a situation of constraint.

In 1970, Apollo 13 went on a lunar mission. The launch was successful, but a fault from inside the space module caused an explosion that turned the exploration into a test for survival for the crew. Carbon dioxide exhaled by the astronauts began to build up in the module. On the ground, an engineering team had to figure out a way to clean the air with only the equipment on board and very little time. It was the unbelievable constraints and the pressure of lives at risk that drove them to a totally unexpected solution. They figured out a way for the command module’s square air cleaners to be used in the lunar module’s round receivers. Who says a square peg can’t fit in a round hole?

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