46 - Decision-making with less: constraint is the seed for creativity



What does decision-making with constraints look like? Here are three high-stakes examples.

René Redzepi, head chef of three Michelin-star restaurant Noma, only uses native Nordic ingredients to create delicious food. Nordic winters are long and unforgiving. Foraging for ingredients is tough. But _being forced _to do so is a recipe for surprise: “plucking grass from rotten seaweed to find it tastes like coriander or biting into ants to find they taste just like lemons.”

Writer Neil Gaiman always writes his first drafts on paper. When he was editing a short-story anthology in the late eighties, the average entry he received was about 3000 words. Five-seven years later, that swelled to up to 9000 words but these entries “didn’t really have much more story than the 3000-word ones.” Wondering why, he realized it was the ease of word processors over typewriters and handwriting. Adding words wasn’t work, choosing was. The computer led to turgid writing. The typewriter or the fountain pen _made you _write careful prose. That’s what is most important to a writer.

Retired US Army General Stan McChrystal believes military leaders are better at developing leaders because they don’t have the luxury of throwing money at the problem. They do so by maximizing purpose for soldiers because they _cannot _distribute bigger annual bonuses to employees, like civilian leaders do.

You will not find a decision-maker without constraints. Some will even welcome them. Why? Because the best decision-makers can take a limitation and create a better solution out of it.

This is how they think.

Constraints kill distraction. Direction emerges when distraction dies. If progress is speed in the right direction, having direction means progress pared to a single dimension. Scalar is much easier to tame than vector is. Now you have your path set out. Now you are free to gather speed. Now you are free to create.

Before you plunge into your next decision worried about the things you don’t have, ask yourself: What if there’s nothing to change about your situation? What if this is it?

And then just leave your mind wide open.

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