November 1

One myth about creativity is that in order to produce brilliant work, you must have complete freedom. No rules, no one judging you, no limits. Just wide open spaces to think and create. It’s a myth because anyone who has ever had to create things for a living – whether that’s art, or a product, or a marketing campaign – knows that a lack of limits is actually harmful to the creative process. Orson Welles, the great filmmaker, once quipped “The absence of limitations is the enemy of art.” Without some form of limitation, it’s difficult to make priority decisions about focus, energy, and time. 

What we should strive for is bounded autonomy. This is freedom within limits. Effective limits help us make critical decisions about our finite resources. Sometimes, the reason we are stuck is that we either have too much autonomy (not enough boundaries) or we are too bounded (too many limits), and the net result is that we can’t see a meaningful path forward. By considering these two factors we can sometimes find just the right solution to our “stuckness”.  Do you need better limits to define where you look for ideas? Better definition of the problem? Or, are you overly constricted by tight boundaries and need more freedom to explore?

Complete freedom is not helpful. The creative process thrives within the context of bounded autonomy.  

Question:  Think about a problem you’re stuck on – do you need more autonomy, or better boundaries? 

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