Working Within Constraints

February 07, 2017

It isn’t fun to be constrained when trying to solve a problem or explore an opportunity. Having too little time and too little budget is something everyone runs into. But working within a constraint can lead to some surprising and creative outcomes.

Instead of asking, “What if…,” as we might if we were taking a Blue Sky approach, we might ask, “In order to…?” Asking the question in this manner causes everyone to consider the underlying motivation for wanting a change, or the underlying reason that something is not working optimally.

We will almost always end up taking a constraints approach to a project, even if the project starts with Blue Sky Thinking. Using constraints to look for problems and opportunities, can be a good way to generate meaningful ideas in a short period of time.

Speaking of Time…

It may feel like there is no time because internal process is being applied blindly, or the skill-sets of the team tasked to solve the issue are not a good match. Because of this, teams do not often stop to consider the simplest, most constrained way to approach the issue.

One of the ways we use constraints, while maintaining flexibility, is to conduct interviews and testing in rounds with three individual participants in each round. This ensures everyone has time to consider the core issues of the project as we assess the results of each round.

This approach allows us decide if we need to change our questions, change who we are asking the questions of, or change what we are giving participants to react to. Even if things go well during the first round of three participants, we may learn something that prompts the start of a parallel track of research.

We continue in rounds until we feel we’re getting good, consistent feedback while asking the right questions of the right people. We build to a level of confidence with which everyone is comfortable.

Working Within Constraints

We like to be able to explore and we like to be realistic. Starting from a place of constraints is a good way to balance the desire to do everything with the knowledge that you cannot. Eventually, we can explore all options, but we do it in increments.

Few people enjoy being constrained when attempting to solve a problem or explore an opportunity. But proceeding intentionally with small-scope steps can be a great way to work through any size project. Get in touch and let’s talk about how we can help get you where you need to be.

Next Post:

Ethics and Technology

What does it mean for technology to be ethical, and whose responsibility is to foresee the side effects of any given technology? We explore these questions and ideas for a more ethical approach.

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