Scarce resources inspire creativity

Don’t have all the resources you’d like due to the economic downturn? Fear not: Resource constraints can spark creativity, according to a new article.

Don't have all the resources you'd like due to the economic downturn? Fear not: Resource constraints can spark creativity, according to a new online essay by Michael Gibbert, Liisa Välikangas, and Martin Hoegl.

Gibbert, Hoegl, and Välikangas first wrote on the link between resource scarcity and innovation for MIT Sloan Management Review in 2007, in an essay called "In Praise of Resource Constraints." Now they've revisited the topic -- in light of the current recession. They observe in their new essay:

In times when you may not be able to afford the tool or service that was designed for the purpose you have in mind, look into other assets that you already have "at hand." Engage in (playful) bricolage -- tinkering with and reusing whatever assets are available. Remember, as a child, using mere wooden sticks as perfectly good dolls or soldiers?

What helps managers think in that kind of creative way? "We believe constraints, especially resource constraints (of which there are plenty in a downturn) are key," the authors state. "Think of them as boundaries that incite creativity."

In other words, if your budget is tighter than it was, don't think of it as a budget crunch; think of it as a catalyst for creative thinking!