2 min read

The paradox of freedom

Here’s the paradox: freedom kills creativity.

Imagine this scenario. You hand a kid a #2 pencil and a blank sheet of 8.5 by 11 paper and you tell her to draw a bug. You’ve just severely restricted the amount of freedom she can take in the assignment. Pencil, paper, bug. But you do this with a hundred kids and you’re going to get a hundred very different, and some of them very creative drawings. Now let’s ask the hundred kids to draw an ant. I think you would see a lot of similarities between the drawings, but I think as the restrictions get tighter (ant instead of bug), you will see more kids pushing against those restrictions and testing their imaginations.

Now instead let’s say you just tell a kid to make something. Anything they want, using any tools and any materials. I should actually try this in real life before I write about it as fact, but my theory is that kid will spend most of her creative energy just trying to figure out what to make, and what to make it out of. So much that she might just get frustrated and quit. You do this with a hundred kids and you will probably get a few very creative results, but by and large I would predict frustration, distraction, and over time a loss of motivation.

I believe to get the best results you have to apply the very strictest of limitations. Like in Apollo 13 when the NASA scientists on the ground are trying to solve the problem on the shuttle in space. Problem-solvers get very creative when there is a specific goal and very real and specific limitations in achieving that goal. Also, a tight deadline and lots of collaboration.

I’m going to try applying this principle to this ‘ere blog. I hope the thousands of regular readers and fans won’t be too overwhelmed by the change.

The plan is to limit the things I write about in an attempt to get better focus and better results. I’m also going to be using this blog as a platform for my design business, so there will be a lot of portfolio stuff thrown in too. I’ve considered this blog as just an outlet for myself, but what happens if I restrict that absolute freedom and narrow the focus? We will see how it goes.

UPDATE: Um, it didn’t really take. Blog is just an outlet again.