Limitations can FREE you for CREATIVE inspiration

Restrictions, limitations, and obstacles for some minds can be just the liberating element to unleash innovation.

Photo of Melinda Tillitski
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For those reality TV fans out there, shows like Top Chef and Project Runaway, showcase regularly how challenging people to create, to stretch, can be magnified with obstacles and within the context of limiting tools or resources. Ask a diverse group of chefs (not unlike a diverse group of learners in a classroom) to cook a dish that reflects the story of EVIL in the Snow White story line, participants surprise themselves. Or in the middle of preparing a dish, producers throw in a change up, demand flexibility and problem solving by requiring chefs to switch stations.

In the context of establishing rituals and routines to establish a culture of innovation, I'd like to suggest establishing the ritual and routine of artificially injecting restrictions, limitations and obstacles in our student's work, in order to push them to be more creative. Of course, this requires applying a bit of game theory to the learning model. I'm not suggesting that we make creating and doing super challenging, I'm suggesting we mix in situational opportunities to be more creative, practice flexibility and adaptability.

Phil Hansen's story  of "Embrace the Shake" is an inspirational example of this very concept:

In art school, Phil Hansen developed an unruly tremor in his hand that kept him from creating the pointillist drawings he loved. Hansen was devastated, floating without a sense of purpose. Until a neurologist made a simple suggestion: embrace this limitation ... and transcend it.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Michael Schurr

Hi Melinda, How are you? I think you are onto a really great idea here. It would be great if you would share it in the ideate phase in a bit more detail.

A couple of questions that might help frame out this idea : What’s this idea about? Why is this an idea that creates a culture of innovation? How would you pitch this to other teachers in your school? Your principal?
How’d you get this idea off the ground?

Please don't hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or want to talk the idea out in more detail!

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