We often hear, “Creativity loves constraints.”
The premise is that real creativity, insight and innovation come out of situations that are constrained in some way. Oftentimes it’s a lack of money that forces startups to be smarter, faster and better. But there are a whole host of constraints — time is another big one — that serve as the sparks of success for the best entrepreneurs out there.
But the truth is that true creativity, innovation and success take constraints and blow them right out of the water. F-ck constraints! What happens when you ignore them completely and look beyond them?
That’s exactly what we see in this incredible video of Tina Seelig (Executive Director of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program) talking about a class she had given where the assignment to the budding entrepreneurs was this: How much money could you make in 2 hours with $5 of seed funding?
She gave each team $5 and 2 hours to make as much money as possible. They had as much time as they wanted to brainstorm, but once they started, they only had 2 hours to generate the results.
And the results are incredible (and hilarious too). The constraints are so severe, you have to believe that most people given this challenge would give up or spend weeks on end trying to come up with the “perfect plan”. The teams that had the most success blew the constraints out of the water. I don’t want to ruin the surprise, so you’ll just have to watch the video below:
A few more interesting tidbits:
- At least two of the groups actually iterated and pivoted during their 2 hours. Talk about fast iterations! They started down one path, only to discover better ways of going about things after they got started. Genius!
- There’s no substitute for doing something. That’s clear with the groups that had success. It’s not that they didn’t think about it, plan, brainstorm, etc. (and it’s not clear how much time they worked on “solving the problem” before they started) but it’s their actions that were important. There were no business plans or slide presentations — just action, evaluation and reaction.
- The teams that succeeded had a very strong sense of what was going on around them. It’s about having an awareness of your surroundings, to pick up on people’s needs, subtleties in the market that others might not recognize. It’s a good reminder that running straight ahead with your head down like a bull charging a red flag isn’t going to give you the perspective you need to succeed.
- It’s not clear from the video how big the teams were, but in my mind this is the kind of exercise that only works when you have a tight knit group of 3-4 people. Incidentally that’s the size of team I think is best when starting a company. And by “tight knit” I don’t mean these people had to be childhood friends, but their ability to communicate, delegate and work together had to be exceptional.
I’d love to try this challenge with a group of budding entrepreneurs. Maybe with some university students in an entrepreneurship class. Five dollars and two hours — what would you do?
You certainly wouldn’t let the constraints hold you back, right?