Often the highest level of creativity occurs when possibilities are limited. Maybe the most impressive example I have experienced on this topic was the work of Gary Chang. As an architect in Hongkong he was confronted with the challenge of creating apartments in a very small area. Apartments that still offered everything you need.
Creativity works best when there is a problem to be solved that is essential for survival. In my experience people are really creative when they are under a lot of presssure to solve a problem and when they actually have the resources needed to solve this problem. The most famous example of this is found in the movie about the Apollo 13 mission. The engineers are all sititng in a room on the ground when the head engineer comes in, throws all available materials in the Apollo 13 capsule on the table and says something like “you have 14 hours to find something with these materials that will save these guys’ life.” This probably does not work, if your own life is at risk - as the stress level then is simply too high and you work instinctively. Panic and fear inhibit rational, systematic thinking.
The creative process of thinking is basically systematic and takes place in phases. It is comparable to the creative play of children or adults. Dave Cray has abstracted from this a method. Here is whart he has to say:
“Why games indeed. I asked myself the same question. The idea for knowledge games didn’t come from some inspiration that struck me in some ivory tower, but from watching people at the cutting edges of new disciplines; people who are entrepreneurs, creators, designers and innovators. Watching them work, watching them play, and sometimes having difficulty telling the difference.
“What are they doing?” I asked myself. They don’t work like other people. What they are doing looks chaotic from the outside, but on closer inspection seems to have a hidden order. I’ve observed meetings that aren’t like the kind of meetings most people are used to: meetings that seem to have no order to them, where people seem to come and go at will. And paper. Lots of paper. These are hard-core geeks; some of the most technological savvy people on the planet. Why are they using low-tech tools like flip charts, sticky notes, index cards and whiteboards? It seems they are rejecting the very technologies they are in the process of inventing. At some point I came to realize that the hidden order I saw in these innovative teams was the same order and structure to be found in games of all kinds.” You can read more in his book “Gamestorming”. Hey, they are not earth shaking ideas, but they are well presented.
Creativity needs “limited” space, a clearly defined problem and a distinct process – how is it that this eye-catching idea almost exactly describes our Scrum Process :-)