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Having these 3 types of constraints can help to kickstart innovation.

What drives big, breakthrough innovations? It’s often constraints that force entrepreneurs to rethink the whole problem and develop something completely new to address it. By limiting your options, creating a scarcity mindset, you push yourself to create innovation. 

When I started Schoolio, I wanted to see how I can solve the challenge of creating an affordable Canadian Curriculum with no more than 10k of upfront investment. The budget constraints forced me to find new ways to sustain curriculum designers, restricted my technology footprint, and pushed me to design an affordable solution contrasted to my competition.

With the forced money constraint, we focused on innovation, got to market in 3 months, and got our first 100k in 9 months. 

While unshackled creativity might seem to be the best course to innovation, some of the most innovative results are conceived when innovation is constrained.

Let’s explore three types of constraints that can help you with innovation thinking within your startup. 

1. The outcome constraints

This is when you focus on the outcome – e.g. We want to expand across Canada in 2 months. By having an end goal in mind, you start to focus on the how. For this to work, you need to choose a particular, BIG outcome – that forces everyone to think about the problem in a fundamentally new way. You quickly figure out what you cannot do and move to new ideas!

2. The conflicting constraints 

With this approach, you combine two or more conflicting outcomes – with Schoolio, “to create a globally recognized curriculum and assessment tool that makes it simpler to verify educational scorecard.” 

3. Specify what is not allowed

This is particularly helpful when there are many possible solutions available. With my music festival, we decided that charging tickets is not something we will do – but with declining sponsorships, we need to find new ways to get funded. Today, DESIFEST is part festival, part agency, and part artist management – combined, our ecosystem innovated to ensure the festival will always be free to fans, and we can raise the funding required to sustain and thrive.

Case Study:

In 2012 MIT Professor Amos Winter was asked to develop a lighter, cheaper prosthetic leg for the vast Indian market. It is not just a bit more affordable: the new limbs needed to be 90% cheaper than those sold in western markets to meet the needs of the over half a million amputees unable to afford prosthetics that often cost tens of thousands of dollars lasted only 2-3 years. Under these dramatic constraints, Winter’s team went back to fundamentals and reframed the problem: what could the science of movement teach us about designing and delivering a radically different prosthetic? Rather than taking a traditional approach, which sought to mimic a human foot, the team focused on a tunable but passive foot design that would instead mimic lower leg movements. By 2019, Winter’s team had unveiled their new, low-cost solution — one that could cheaply and easily be tailored to a patient’s weight and height. It was fundamentally different from existing products in terms of cost, design, and material. This achievement was only possible because the initial constraints imposed on the challenge forced a complete rethinking of the problem.

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