31.05.2017 |

Episode #7 of the course How to lead a productive and creative brainstorm by TD Haines


Coming up with new ideas is like squeezing toothpaste out of a tube. Without the tube itself, the toothpaste would go everywhere when you squeeze it, instead of landing on your toothbrush.

It’s the constraint of the tube and the tiny opening that makes the result actionable.

That is what today’s multi-faceted lens is all about—constraints.

In earlier lessons, we discussed getting into the root cause of the problem you’re brainstorming and understanding your user personas. This will be useful here. Don’t hesitate to remind the group.


Constraint Lens: Remove a Key Component

I love this one because all those things that you feel are ironclad and set in stone are going to get washed away. Take one of the key components of your organization and toss it.

Example: You work at a chicken restaurant trying to think of new items. Tell the brainstorming group “We no longer sell chicken but we’re still holding true to the type of food we sell.” See what new menus items they can come up with.

Example: You work for an online bank. “We can’t send emails to our customers anymore. How are we going to interact?”

The more fundamental the component you throw away, the more resourceful the brainstormers will have to be.


Constraint Lens: Flip a Pain into a Gain

Examine your list of pain points and root causes of your problem. Now pretend like that pain point is a good thing. You WANT that to happen. What solutions can the group come up with where that pain is a good result?

Example: 75% of the visitors to our webpage only see the homepage and leave after a minute. “How can we design a website so that our visitors don’t have to stay longer than a minute or navigate at all?”


Constraint Lens: Anchored Waypoint

This one will take a little setup on your part. Make sure you bring a list of behaviors or experiences that are important or high-performing for your organization. Think of things you do well and add them to the list.

You’ll pick one of the important/high-performing items of your list and use it as an anchored waypoint. That means all solutions must pass through this thing we already do well.

I recommend deciding on which important or high-performing behavior or experience to use when you are in the thick of the brainstorm. The way the brainstorm flows up to this point should impact your choice.*

Example: You work for an ad agency and you are brainstorming around a new social media campaign. Your agency’s best work has been in radio ads. “How can we design a social media campaign that leverages what we do in radio?”

*Super Secret Note: This isn’t considered “winging it.” You’ve prepared a list, you’re simply choosing what to use from the list while in the brainstorm. This is another audible!



• Add a constraint lens to your brainstorming plan.

• Create a list of important or high-performing behaviors or experiences for your organization.


Recommended book

A Beautiful Constraint: How To Transform Your Limitations Into Advantages, and Why It’s Everyone’s Business by Adam Morgan, Mark Barden


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