There is a school of thought that says that creativity is enhanced by having all the resources you need. There is an equal and opposite view that suggests that limitations can be the spur to creativity. It is to this view that I want to turn. Starting with the gypsy jazz musician Django Reinhardt:
Tony Iommi accidentally ‘copied’ Django’s loss after an accident in a sheet metal factory where he lost the tips of the middle and ring finger of his right hand. Inspired by Reinhardt, Iommi made plastic covers for his fingers by melting plastic bottles and dipping them in while the plastic was soft enough to be shaped.
What was Beethoven’s impediment? And Ray Charles? Can anyone tell us more on these characters?
The parallel lesson from my background in pharmaceuticals is that many of the world’s breakthrough therapies were not discovered in sterile glass corporate buildings, but often in rather unpromising conditions, by people who had been starved of budget, resources and attention by the corporate centre. I’m not suggesting that this should become a modus operandi for running innovative businesses. Just that sometimes opulence does not produce the conditions where people give that extra effort that leads to innovative breakthroughs.
At a personal level, give someone all s/he needs and he may use those resources to come up with something ingenious. Tell him or her that it’s impossible or there isn’t time and they might spend a lot more effort proving you wrong. Clearly this is not an absolute truth in all circumstances, but it’s widely ignored.