Constraints breed breakthrough creativity David 07 Dec 2005

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Kathy Sierra is spot on again in her latest muse on the relationship between creativity and constraints:

One of the best ways to be truly creative—breakthrough creative—is to be forced to go fast. Really, really, really fast. From the brain’s perspective, it makes sense that extreme speed can unlock creativity. When forced to come up with something under extreme time constraints, we’re forced to rely on the more intuitive, subconscious parts of our brain. The time pressure can help suppress the logical/rational/critical parts of your brain. It helps you EQ up subconscious creativity (so-called “right brain”) and EQ down conscious thought (“left brain”).

Ruby on Rails was born out of the need to make Basecamp a reality with only 10 dedicated programming hours per week. We simply couldn’t go with the mainstream toolset and deliver under those constraints. So we were forced to try different ways, to slaughter the holy cows, to route around that which either takes too long or really didn’t matter in the end.

Kathy quotes a great one from Frank Lloyd Wright:

Man built most nobly when limitations were at their greatest.

Embrace your constraints. Don’t worry about getting money, hire less people and buy less hardware instead. Don’t worry about having more time, build less software. That’s one of the greatest advantages of small teams. We’re handed those constraints for free. We don’t have to fight off money, people, and resources. They’re naturally limited and that’s what will set you free.

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