When Limits Lead to Creativity

Design By: Margo Brunner

Design By: Margo Brunner

With great power, comes great responsibility. Maybe it should be said, with great freedom comes great restriction.

If a person were to be asked to pick a number, any number, on this great wide planet, it would be an almost guaranteed bet that the person would pick an integer, and why not. 

An integer is the level of numerical use that the average person utilizes on a day-to-day basis, so it would be easiest for someone to pop out the first integer that comes to mind. 

At the same time, out of an infinite pool of integers, a large majority of people would likely select a number from one to one hundred, just because it is the quickest to come to mind. 

The moral of the story, when given an infinite number of selections, most people will still select a number from a microscopic section of the options available.

Now, what if that same person was asked to select a number between 0 and 1? There is a high likelihood that the person would pick a number in the tenths, such as 0.1 or 0.6, just because that is the easiest and quickest number to come to mind that fits the requirements. 

In an informal poll of the Oracle staff, exactly zero participants selected a non-integer when asked to pick any number, and zero participants went beyond more than the hundredths place when asked to select a number between 0 and 1.

While 0.6 was an option to select when asked to pick any number, no participant of the study selected a decimal, but when the participants’ options were restricted, they ended up selecting a wider range of numbers than when given a wider range of numbers to select from. 

The practical use of such knowledge is knowing that having more options does not equate to better results. When writing the next great novel or the next Oscar-winning movie, leaving an infinite number of plot possibilities may result in a carte blanche film. 

Instead, try limiting the options. When filming a movie, only allow the cameraman to shoot at 90-degree angles. When writing a book, try not using the word “because.”

These limits to creativity may end up resulting in the most creative work of all.