Creative Thinking … Rekindle Your Skills by Adding Problem Constraints

Are you looking to improve your creative thinking skills so as to impact your breakthrough thinking?  Don’t believe you are creative?  Creativity is often defined as the ability to connect ideas that are seemingly unconnectable.


Necessity is the mother of invention

– Plato


Connecting ideas are how new ideas originate … it is the basis for creativity. Most of the time we time in terms of finding more ideas to add to our list of consideration … the more new ideas to connect, the more chances of improving your creativity.


But it doesn’t always work that way. Often you can rekindle your creativity by adding constraints to your problem space. Have you ever been successful from trying this technique?


Related post: Secrets to Unlocking the Genie in the Creativity Bottle


Creative thinking skills
Creative thinking skills.

My son once came back from a trip during which he broke a guitar string that he could not replace. He was actually delighted with the experience, having had to invent a different way of playing the instrument, and discovering new harmonies. With one string missing, he had to work out the others to a whole new level. And voila … he used a part of his creativity he had never exercised.


This is a creative classic.


Other examples include legislation on car emissions that have led to the creative changes to the combustion engine and the rise of hybrid and electric vehicles. Another good example is Apple making the explicit decision to ban the use of stylus, which led to the famous touch-screen products that we all know.


Examples of creative thinking
Examples of creative thinking.





Creative design can be enhanced not always by adding new degrees of freedom, but sometimes by cutting some degrees of freedom.


Sharing a story of creative thinking

We are always on the lookout for good stories. Stories to illustrate points we are emphasizing. So we read a lot. Today’s story is about generating ideas. Ideas from convergent thinking.


The story is about why you should ask why. It comes from Ideas Champions. A consulting company like us (but bigger and more well-known), who specialize in creativity, innovation, team building and leadership. All favorite topics of ours. So we keep up with this team.


The story is about a big problem at one of our favorite monuments – the Jefferson Memorial in Washington DC.


Simply put, birds — in huge numbers — were pooping all over it, which made visiting the place a very unpleasant experience.


Attempts to remedy the situation caused even bigger problems, since the harsh cleaning detergents being used were damaging the memorial.


Fortunately, some of the National Parks managers assigned to the case began asking WHY — as in “Why was the Jefferson Memorial so much more of a target for birds than any of the other memorials?”


A little bit of investigation revealed the following:


The birds were attracted to the Jefferson Memorial because of the abundance of spiders — a gourmet treat for birds.


The spiders were attracted to the Memorial because of the abundance of midges (insects) that were nesting there.


And the midges were attracted to the Memorial because of the light.


Midges, it turns out, like to procreate in places were the light is just so — and because the lights were turned on, at the Jefferson Memorial, one hour before dark, it created the kind of mood lighting that midges went crazy for.


So there you have it: The midges were attracted to the light. The spiders were attracted to the midges. The birds were attracted to the spiders. And the National Parks workers, though not necessarily attracted to the bird poop, were attracted to getting paid — so they spent a lot of their time (and taxpayer money) cleaning the Memorial.


How did the situation resolve?  Very simply.


After reviewing the curious chain of events that led up to the problem, the decision was made to wait until dark before turning the lights on at the Jefferson Memorial. About as simple a solution as you could get. Right?


That one-hour delay was enough to ruin the mood lighting for the midges, who then decided to have midge sex somewhere else.


No midges, no spiders. No spiders, no birds. No birds, no poop. No poop, no need to clean the Jefferson Memorial so often. Case closed.


Now, consider what “solutions” might have been forthcoming if those curious National Parks managers did not stop and ask WHY:


Hire more workers to clean the Memorial

Ask existing workers to work overtime

Experiment with different kinds of cleaning materials

Put bird poison all around the memorial

Hire hunters to shoot the birds

Encase the entire Jefferson Memorial in Plexiglas

Move the Memorial to another part of Washington

Close the site to the general public



Technically speaking, each of the above “solutions” was a possible approach — but at great cost, inconvenience, and with questionable results. Not great solutions.


The bottom line 

To be effective in this new era, we as creative thinking business people need to see our jobs differently. No more just focusing on metrics like clicks, video views or social media shares. We must successfully integrate our function with other business functions to create entire perspectives that serve the customer all the way through their experiences throughout the business.


We can do better. Much better. But first, we need to stop seeing ourselves as crafters of clever brand messages and become creators of positive brand experiences.


There can never be enough focus on continuous improvement on brand marketing, independent of how well the business is doing. It seems we all are looking to take our success to a new level. This is an excellent time to make a statement with their creative thinking. Changing before you have to is always a good idea.




Do you have any similar stories of creative design to share with this community?


Like this short blog? Follow Digital Spark Marketing on LinkedIn or add us to your circles for 3-4 short, interesting blogs, stories per week.


Need some help in improving the innovation process for you and your staff? Innovative ideas to help the differentiation with your toughest competitors? Or maybe ways to innovate new products and services?


Call today for a FREE consultation or a FREE quote. Learn about some options for innovation workshops to get noticeable results.

Call Mike at 607-725-8240.


All you get is what you bring to the fight. And that fight gets better every day you learn and apply new innovative ideas.


When things are not what you want them to be, what’s most important is your next step. Call today.


Test. Learn. Improve. Repeat.


Do you have a lesson about making your innovation learning better you can share with this community? Have any questions or comments to add in the section below?


Mike Schoultz is the founder of Digital Spark Marketing, a digital marketing and customer service agency. With 40 years of business experience, he blogs on topics that relate to improving the performance of your business. Find them on G+Twitter, and LinkedIn.  


Digital Spark Marketing will stretch your thinking and your ability to adapt to change.  We also provide some fun and inspiration along the way. Call us for a free quote today. You will be amazed how reasonable we will be.


More reading on continuous learning from Digital Spark Marketing’s Library:

10 Different Ways to Enhance Creativity 

Secrets to Unlocking the Genie in the Creativity Bottle

Generating Ideas by Convergent Thinking

The Secrets to Building an Innovative Culture




Creative Thinking … Rekindle Your Skills by Adding Problem Constraints