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Limiting options to fuel creativity

Updated: Apr 8, 2021

There are so many opportunities for innovation in the world around us:

  • Business concepts

  • Product ideas

  • Service offerings

  • Manufacturing techniques

  • Mechanisms to use

  • Tools to buy or use

  • Places to go

  • Markets to address

  • Investments to make etc, etc

How can a smart, creative person make an informed decision? I've found that limiting your options leads to better understanding of the solution space. 

Here's a real-life example: I can visualize solutions quickly with a basic ballpoint pen on paper. I don't need any special tools. This means that I can develop an entire assembly on the back of an envelope while waiting for the bus. I'm not unique in this, many people can draw. Many people can come up with ideas. 

I recently bought a digital tablet to try to improve the speed at which I can iterate on concept sketches. I thought that my sketches would instantly improve, but I was wrong.

There were hundreds of options for brushes, tips, layers, colors, pressure sensitivity, backgrounds, transparency, etc.  I had so many options at my disposal that I suddenly wasn't satisfied with my output.

I decided to limit my workflow to one app, and three tools: pen, eraser, and the airbrush. 

It felt like I was throwing away all the creative tools that the software offered me. 

I felt like I should be using more of the options. 

I felt like a failure.....but I was winning!

I was back to a speed that provided real value to my clients. 

I learned that I can't let my tools get in the way of communicating the ideas.  Limiting options allowed me to focus on the solution, not the method.

In the 3D world, there are dozens of prototyping techniques for building prototypes of your ideas.  Each has it's own benefits and tradeoffs. I'll cover these in another post.

Choose a direction, and work within the limitations of the chosen technique.

Push your solution fast to get to testing phase quickly.  Actual testing will help you improve your design.


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