Writer’s block can arise when staring at a blank page. Likewise for the business strategist, indecision can surface when facing a market of limitless possibilities. Rather than unbounded freedom, we need form to define the problem space of our work and we need problems to help formulate the work itself.
Constraints and obstacles can be assets to new ventures in that they facilitate and enhance design creativity. “Constraints shape and focus problems and provide clear challenges to overcome”, says Google’s Marissa Mayer, and thus constraints provide direction to our work.
Once you accept that constraints can actually improve your new product, initiative or business, can you identify all of the necessary business constraints at one time, prior to launch? New ventures and products are more about design and discovery than they are about executing a rigid comprehensive plan.
Over time, new constraints are continually revealed, highlighting appropriate problems at the appropriate time. For example, at the heart of agile software development is the segmentation of projects into small problems to be solved. The initial problems are derived from initial user needs. Minimal products with minimal features are then developed and released in a progressive manner, quickly and often. This allows frequent user feedback and product enhancements.
Traditionally, software is developed using a “waterfall” method where the “entire solution” is completely designed, detailed and planned prior to project initiation. Team members have their roles and tasks from the beginning of the development process to the end.
In contrast, agile projects reveal problems and constraints during each phase of software release and use. Small teams encounter new problems and learn as they progress, changing objectives, roles, and product features as needed. This progressive approach can be used for the development of new products and businesses of every kind.
To enter a market quickly, minimizing the cost of entry and ensuring success, it is important to let constraints direct and enhance your initiative or new business. While present markets are predictable to some extent, new markets and offerings are best discovered.
Constraints not only provide focus for creativity, they reveal the reality of markets progressively over time. Leveraging constraints, obstacles, and problems as they arise will enhance your adaptation to the dynamic business environment of today.