Innovation within restrictions: Thinking inside the box


A child inside the box

Around the world the talk is about lockdown and Covid-19 restrictions. Small and informal enterprises, especially, must find new ways of doing business. But if we only think about restrictions, we will never survive.

Think inside the box
At the 2019 Global Leadership Summit, Craig Groeschel called on leaders to think inside the box, because creativity and innovation thrive more under restrictions than under freedom of choice.

Thinking outside the box means no restraints; the choices are too broad and unfocused. It’s like facing a restaurant menu with hundreds of choices and having to decide what to eat.

Buying perfume
Many years ago, flying home via Amsterdam, I decided to buy my wife some duty-free perfume — a crazy outside-the-box idea for an ignorant husband to attempt. The vast range nearly put me off creativity. But I was rescued by a kind and customer-service-savvy assistant who seems to have known about thinking inside the box.

My answer (‘I haven’t a clue’) to her first question (‘What does she like?’) told her all she needed to know about me.

She explained three basic categories of scent. (Don’t ask. I’m STILL an ignorant husband.) She produced a sample of each, and I was easily able to choose one. She then broke that category down to three ‘groups’ or types (it was a long time ago). Again, the choice was easy. Three brands within that choice were offered, and the one I chose proved more than acceptable at home.

Restrictions encourage creativity.

The what and the why and the how
How to make it work for you? Groeschel says, ‘If you connect to the WHAT and are consumed by the WHY, you will figure out the HOW.’

  • Start with the What

What drives you? What are you trying to achieve? What is your goal in life, your reason for being as an organisation? What are you trying to achieve in this project or activity?

  • Own the Why

Why does it matter? Why is your goal so important? Whether it’s world peace or peace in your family, brotherly love or the love of your life, if it really matters to you, you will find a way. A brave lover penned a letter to his love:

‘I’ll swim the deepest ocean and climb the highest mountain for you. I’ll battle the wildest storm and cross the driest desert for you.

‘Ps. I’ll see you Saturday, if it’s not raining.’

If something is not important, the smallest obstacle will hold us back. If it matters, obstacles will lead to creativity and innovation.

Why does your goal or project matter?

  • Discover the How

Now you are ready, because ‘If you connect to the WHAT and are consumed by the WHY, you will figure out the HOW.

Go figure.

Let us know how restrictions have led to new ideas for you?


Ian Webster

From Methodist minister to Customer Relations manager in a computer bureau to HR Manager in a newspaper printing and publishing company. Now focussing on training and developing people and HR & people-management consulting.

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