As a leader, one of the best ways to inspire innovation is to impose constraints or limitations. Constraints put pressure on people every day.  They force us to make choices and change our behaviors.  In extreme cases constraints make us experience hardships.  An example of this extreme is the hardship that Jessica Mathews, CEO of Uncharted Play, relates that millions of people experience in underdeveloped countries around the world.  Jessica, a U.S. citizen, has a family that lives in Nigeria, and while on a trip to Nigeria she experienced an all-too-common experience, lengthy power outages.  A particular power outage that disrupted her aunt’s wedding sparked a chain of events for Jessica that would lead to the most ingenious innovation, the Socket.  Jessica’s story is a case study for how capturing innovation is done best not by hiring genius employees and then setting them to the task of innovating, but the key is to create an environment where all employees learn to recognize and challenge constraints and then empower them to dream up solutions to neutralize those constraints.  As Jonah Lehrer states in his book Imagine: How Creativity Works, “the imagination is unleashed by constraints. You break out of the box by stepping into shackles.” As leaders, we must embrace constraints as the engine for inspiring innovation within our organizations.

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