The Constraint Dilemma

Amit Baria
4 min readApr 29, 2018

Pressure can either bust a pipe or make a diamond. A saying many have heard in their lifetime when confronted with the challenging internal conflict of whether to dig deeper and move forward or give up. The ‘pressure’, credited with making or breaking the team or individual, typically stems from a set of constraints - physical, mental, time, financial and so on. Constraints, suffocative by nature, are bound to lead to failure…or are they?

That depends on your view of “constraints”.

Are they ugly? Or beautiful?

Viewing a constraint through a fear based, resistant mindset or an ‘ugly’ lens, that overcomes the prospect of potential upside is sure to bust pipes. The constraint becomes two opposing forces fighting for dominance, where fear of failure transforms action into a crippling state.

However, has the upside in achieving the goal, been properly qualified? Is the goal important enough to fight on?

Viewing a constraint through a goal motivated or ‘beautiful’ lens, where they are embraced stop fear of failure dead in its tracks. Rather than battle the constraint head to head, its momentum is instead used to amplify action.

Constraint has been the catalyst to change leading to entrepreneurial endeavors. AirBNB, Uber, Twitter - the list goes on of startup companies that revolutionized obsolete, constrained business models.

Constraint spawns innovation.

The following exercise has justified modifying frameworks for growth & strategy meetings to promote wild opportunity. Some tasks are too great to tackle alone, but with a shared mindset in approaching a common, unilateral goal, the collective brain can be mighty.

Consider a task where a group of 5 ‘strangers’ generate 99 micro business models within 3 hours in a relatively unstructured environment. At face, an ambiguous task that seems unsurmountable. Impossible, right?

A task that we thought would take all night, much to our surprise, our team was able to finish with much time to spare.

Developing a Process

Everyone in a group wants the same thing — to succeed. Removing judgment, equalizing the playing field enabling everyone to comfortably contribute, all to foster a culture that is supportive is paramount. As are establishing the rules of engagement, time boxing, output format, sharing protocol, contribution and assessment. These factors keep activity and engagement aligned and hyper focused.

Establishing a ‘how can this work’ approach over why it won’t work is crucial. Focusing on generating possibility first, determining probability later. The rules of engagement required individuals to produce an idea. Whether good or bad, the group expanded on the idea to flesh out a model. The point being, a group that brings a broader range of perspectives is needed for validation and viability. No idea was a bad idea, it was a starting point.

Rather than focus on the end result of 99 micro models, we immediately broke down the task into its component parts. Our process to developing the process was open and fluid, lets start fast, fail fast and build on what worked.

We first asked ourselves what domains we have a flavor for to determine sector. Then, which attributes of the business do we need to address to get to the gist of the model in 20 seconds. We split sessions into collaborative and private brainstorming to support everyone’s work styles while staying engaged, building on one another’s momentum and thoughts.

We limited our time in idea generation to build self-imposed pressure, to produce without having the luxury to overthink and eliminate ideas. It’s amazing of what can be produced when one decides to just get started. Dive right in taking the first step of a loose process, be willing to adjust as you move along — don’t allow the end result to place burden on the journey. Every team member brought a unique perspective, identified different problems, their solutions and contributed domain expertise to expand individual purview.

Opportunity is only as limiting as the constraints one places on himself.

Open your perspective to possibility, the world outside of your own, and limitations begin to fade letting ingenuity shine.