Inc.: Why Creative Geniuses Like David Bowie Embrace the Power of 'Unchangeable' Constraints

09 Feb 2021
AMJ research shows the best-performing employees also tend to embrace that seeming contradiction.

Originally found at Inc., by Jeff Haden.

Sometimes less really is more, especially where starting a successful business is concerned.

It's easy to assume you're doing well when you have plenty of resources. Problems can be ignored, for now. Waste can go unnoticed, for now. Revenue shortfalls can be covered by cash reserves, for now.

In fact, "more"--more money, more time, more automation, more connections, etc.--can actually make long-term success more difficult. Constraints can often be a blessing in (seemingly painful) disguise.

Not just in business.


In a 2017 study published in Academy of Management Journal that I've written about before, researchers asked employees to rate their willingness to embrace contradictions. They were then asked to rate how often they experienced resource constraints: limited time, limited funds, limited resources, limited supplies, etc.

Meanwhile, their bosses rated each employee in terms of overall performance, creativity, and innovation.

What happened? Employees who ranked on the low end of what researchers called "the paradox mindset" scale (meaning they disliked contradictions, much less embracing them) struggled with constraints--their performance dropped whenever they felt resources were insufficient.

On the flip side, employees who found it challenging and even fun to overcome constraints were the better performers, especially when creativity and problem-solving were required.

And here's the kicker: The presence of constraints often caused the performance of those employees to improve.

Continue reading the original article at Inc.

Read the original research in Academy of Management Journal.

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