If only we had more time/money/resources

A natural instinct when we’re tasked with getting something done is to spend time wishing for more time/money/resources.

But, this is just another example of when our default instincts are counter productive. Being plush with resources is not conducive for resourcefulness or creativity – both of these appear only in the presence of constraints.

That, in turn, is the challenge when funding teams – you want just enough critical mass to get the team going and, yet, not enough to fund everything.

The magic appears when we have just enough to do the things that matter and disappears when we have more than enough.

PS: Interestingly, in the long term, more resources find themselves in the hands of those who demonstrate resourcefulness by making the most of what they have in their hands.

Time pressure

I spent the last twenty minutes searching for inspiration to write something worth sharing today. I went through a list of ideas and links on my OneNote, started and stopped two drafts, and thought about a few lessons from the past few days. Still, nothing. Today is the day off for Labor Day (venture capitalist Albert Wenger has a thoughtful post up on the subject – thanks as always, Albert). It occurred to me that I would have finished writing the post by now if this was any other weekday. The difference is the absence of time pressure. I know I have longer than the usual twenty minutes.

I have come to realize that you don’t just learn important life lessons. No, the important ones are re-learned again and again and again. You may learn once that gratitude greatly contributes to happiness. But, it isn’t a one and done thing. To make it a part of who you are, you commit to re-learning it regularly. And, once it is a part of how you operate, you just re-learn its importance every single day. In some ways, a good life is just a collection of integrative principles that you learn and re-learn and then re-learn again.

The power of time pressure is one of those ideas. We all know constraints build creativity. I certainly have written about that at least once every year in the past 8 years or so. But, it still isn’t a part of how I operate. Yes, I remember it every once a while. But, I can think of at least three times in the past two weeks when I’ve wished for no constraints. Wouldn’t it be better if there was no time pressure to finish this? Wouldn’t it be better to not have financial constraints?

No, it wouldn’t be. The tension of time pressure is a beautiful tension that pushes us to be efficient and creative. I always remember my time at a client project a few years ago when the shuttle to the train station left at 530pm. As it was a long commute back to the city, most folks left then. And, the afternoons were always very productive because you knew you couldn’t stay in the office any longer. I still imitate a “get out at 530pm” schedule to this day thanks to that experience. I thought I’d learnt it. But, not really. I still don’t appreciate constraints as much as I should.

Maybe a first step would be to stop whining about time pressure. Writing here under time pressure on most days ought to be a daily reminder of that idea. So, here’s to more appreciation of constraints..

And, of course, here’s to time pressure.

Dithering and Constraints

This is my third attempt at a written blog post this morning. I’ve rejected at least three others in my head. The problem? The lack of obvious constraints.

I have an implicit deadline on most days to get the post of the day written. But, on a day off like today, there isn’t an obvious one. So, I dither. I keep trying to find the perfect post since I have that little bit of extra time.

Of course, there is no perfect post. And, creating the perfect post isn’t just about figuring it out in my head. Creating that post involves writing until I get it right. I might get that post after hours of deliberation. But, I would likely just cut a frustrated figure at having spent so much time attempting to write my learning for the day.

When we imagine happy lives, we often imagine lives without annoying constraints around money and time. But, as my experience with a lack of constraints shows, such a life would be full of dithering and without much creativity.

Constraints matter. If you find yourself stuck in a rut, it is perhaps worth wondering if having a few constraints (real or imaginary) might help get your creative juices flowing.

Creativity isn’t just about thinking out of the box. Most of the time, it is all about thinking on the edges of the box.

constraintsImage Source

Find your Herbie – The 200 words project

Here’s this week’s 200 word idea thanks to The Goal by Eliyahu M Goldratt

Alex Rogo was taking a long hike with his son’s boy scout group. He noticed that, while everyone seemed to be moving as fast as they could, they weren’t really making progress as a group. He was reminded of his Operations mentor’s advice – “find the constraint.” Constraints are obstacles that hold the whole system back – e.g, in a manufacturing plant, it is the machine with the biggest queue of materials behind it.

Alex soon realized that one boy, Herbie, was the slowest of them all. So, he moved Herbie in front of the group and forbid the others to pass him. This completely changed the dynamic – the group soon realized that any improvement with Herbie, however small, would improve the group’s pace. So, they divided everything in Herbie’s backpack between the boys and Herbie moved faster. The group made it to the camp in good time and Alex learnt a key lesson in improving productivity – take the time to identify and remove constraints. Every other improvement we make is non-essential.

HerbieSource and thanks to: www.EBSketchin.com

‘There is no one Herbie and finding one will create others.  The point is not to find him, but always look for him. So, clear your mind, find your Herbies and make them faster.’ | Sean Low on his blog