A long time ago, Henry Ford asked his team to build an eight-cylinder engine, and they answered that it was impossible. For some mechanical reason, the camshaft, an internal engine component, couldn’t exceed a certain length without suffering deformation. Henry Ford sent them back to their drawing boards and calculations to find a solution. Vehicles were becoming larger and heavier, thus needing more power from their engines. Every year-end, they returned with the same answer: it is impossible; and he always replied, find a way to make it happen.
This is a classic example of what I call Creative Restrictions.
Life frequently places us in front of these fantastic opportunities. Some people recognise them; others don’t. Why do I call them opportunities? Because looking for solutions that seem impossible is one of the most significant triggers of creativity.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, several teams in different parts of the world tried to build a heavier-than-air flying machine; the Wright brothers were the first to achieve it. There were lighter-than-air flying devices, like hot-air balloons, but their manoeuvrability and the load they could move were limited. The creative restriction was heavier-than-air; thanks to these efforts, today, we have a vast flying industry.
This restriction called for analysing how large-winged birds could fly without additional impulse, which brought new light to the Bernoulli Principle and the development of self-sustaining fixed wings. Petrol engines were redesigned and used to impulse these flying machines via propellers, improving their performance and capacities at different altitudes. Other industries had significant advancements while looking for solutions to problems that didn’t exist before the invention of the aeroplane.
With gas availability, cities and houses were being illuminated using gas combustion. Thomas A. Edison was afraid of the risk of death from potential explosions. He decided to find a way to generate light using electricity; the creative restriction was using electricity. After thousands of failed attempts, he found the solution.
This created an entirely new industry, electricity generation and distribution. He, and many others, invented solutions to problems that only appeared due to electric light being invented. Today we can’t imagine our lives without outlets, plugs, converters and many other devices; we should remember that the adoption of electric light only started at the beginning of the past century.
The easy way is to give up in front of these insurmountable goals and achieve nothing. Many might have argued: that we have the six-cylinder engine, the hot-air balloon and the gas combustion light. But pioneers like Ford, the Wright brothers and Edison firmly established their Creative Restrictions and found the solutions they were looking for within them.
A few years after Ford’s request, his engineering team came to his office with shining smiles and sparkling eyes; they had found the solution to building the eight-cylinder engine: joining two four-cylinder engines in a 30-degree angle; the shorter camshaft required was not subject to deformation. Afterwards, the ten-cylinder and twelve-cylinder engines appeared, delivering even more power for larger vehicles.
Henry Ford smiled and reminded them of his famous phrase: “nothing is impossible, just no one has done it yet”.
A couple of decades ago, I called my team and announced that we would create the first zero-code, fully customisable Enterprise Software Platform for large organisations; most of them looked at me with absolute incredulity, assuming I had lost my mind. Most enterprise software was customised using hundreds of thousands of lines of code; the creatine restriction was Zero-Code. This is how LOVIS EOS was born.
Next time you and your team face a challenge, look for the valuable Creative Restrictions and keep them in place; otherwise, you might be letting a lifetime opportunity pass in front of your eyes.