The Framework: Constrain


In the first segment, we’ll consider the framework element of constraining. Valuing constraints and inventively utilizing resources is at the heart of ingenuity and the advancement of your mission. You can listen to the audio below. There is also a transcript if you would like to refer back to this segment.

Your mission is too important and your resources too precious.

Work with ingenuity!



Transcript Below: The transcript below is not meant to replace listening to the audio, but serves as a reference for post-listening learning. Please forgive any errors due to the skill level of the A.I. robot that created this transcript. 



I cannot believe they are making me do this. The silence and the frustration after that statement was palpable. I’ve been coaching Joe for around four or five months, when he announced at the beginning of one of our sessions, that he was being forced to provide for his staff, customer training. He was the facilities manager at a relatively large healthcare network. And Joe had been having some struggles with some of his employees, and they weren’t the most emotionally intelligent and savvy employees when it came to dealing with other people.

If anything needed to be fixed mechanically, they were genius. But when it came to other people, it wasn’t their strength. Okay. We all have our strengths. We all have our weaknesses. So Joe had been asked by his leaders and the leadership team of the hospital network to do some training. And you know, what else? There is zero money to do it. So they are making me provide customer service training for all of my employees, and no budget in which to do it. Can you believe that Dave? I mean, how am I going to do that? I can’t do that.

There’s no way I can do that. I’m not like a customer service guru. What are they thinking? I let Joe’s words ring for just a minute before I spoke. Hey, where are you right now? Are you at your desk? Yeah. Well, do me a favor. Is your computer on? Well, yeah, a little more confused this time. So well, here. I want to, I want to show you something, something that isn’t going to blow your mind. I could tell with that. Joe was a little intrigued but mostly frustrated that I was not confirming how awful this situation was and how unfairly he was being treated.

Okay, okay, I’ve got I’ve got it up. All right. There’s this thing called the Google machine. Dave came to tone across, we been working together enough that he felt free to shut me down. Dave? No, I said really? It’s an amazing thing. Have you heard of the Google machine? Pull it up? I got a little snicker. And he said, Okay, it’s up. I said, Okay. You see that blank looking box there in the middle of the Google machine. Yeah, Dave, I see it. Okay. Type in these words, customer service, training videos. You already know what happens next, right. We found articles, white papers, videos, an entire video series on customer service, that within 20 minutes had become a tailored program for his entire department. The third element an action that is, I might say, universally evident when people are being ingenious is the creative utilization of resources. The creative utilization of resource. Now I call this third element constrain the name that I’ve given it is constraint. I chose not to have some word that had resource in it. Because of this fact. Ingenuity is born from resource constrained


no constraint, no ingenuity. Think about it. Ingenuity presupposes that there’s a constraint you can’t get out of, we’ve got to find a way to make this fit in the whole of this using nothing but that that is resource constrained. And so when we come to thinking about the clever utilization of our resources, we need to think about if we want to ignite ingenuity, think about the constraints of those resources as a positive ally, in finding ingenuity.

But here’s what I’ve discovered, over the years of working with different teams and organizations. I can remember being in a city, working with different organizations at the same time, and watching how they would handle the constraints and limitations of their resources. On one hand, company A would come up against a challenge, or a need for a solution, come up with a solution, get the right people involved, and then start looking at their resources and immediately start solving with what they had. They MacGyvered it right out of the gate.

They simply knew that by starting with the duct tape that they had, whatever that is, the amount of money, the people, the you name it by starting with that they would at least get in the game of solution making. And over time, that would probably lead not only to better ingenuity, but more resource More on that in a moment. But then I would go to organization B, who was facing a challenge had similar or greater resources at their disposal. And they immediately focused on resource deprivation as an excuse to not try it went like this.

Well, you know, I mean, yeah, if we had more money, we could. I mean, if we had three more positions, maybe we could, whatever it would be, whatever the resource of the moment, they were referring to, whatever that was, the idea was that because of the deprivation, they were unable to even start. Now, mind you, there are times when you shouldn’t start something because you don’t have the resource. I’m talking now about important solutions, where there’s agreement and alignment around going for it with the resources that you have.

But then, as soon as you get into the difficulty of realizing you have constraints, you pull back. That’s what I saw in organization be in low ingenuity, quotient teams and organizations. They actually used resource deprivation as an excuse to not try. Now teams with high ingenuity thrived in their constraints. I mean, they relished trying to figure out how to make a filter out of the resources on the table. But they’re low ingenuity counterparts shriveled up, they shriveled up in their constraints. It was just impossible. We just don’t have what we need.

And therefore, why even try. And as I mentioned earlier, ironically, organizations like organization a, those with more ingenuity and the willingness to work within their constraints to get moving, actually ended up with more resource more often than the mediocre organizations that hunkered down, decided not to try because they didn’t have the resources that they thought they needed. That’s why the mantra here is start with the resources you have. Not the ones you wish you had. Joe was blinded by the unfairness of it all. Joe saw his constraints as something to excuse Trying, at least at the beginning.


Joe wanted to blame the all powerful, they, you know, they right? They are the group of people who we may or may not even know who is in the group that are making our lives unhappy and difficult. They want me to do customer service training for my entire group without any money. What are they thinking? Now, this is an ingenuity. Killer one, I find a group to blame. So I can excuse myself from having to even try to part of my excuse making is that I don’t have the right resources. If I had the right resources, I might be able to try.

But since I don’t, never mind. High ingenuity quotient teams do just the opposite. We’ve got to find a way. without spending any money. There’s the constraint, or at least a really important one, without spending any money to do really excellent customer service training for the facility management team. How do we do that? How do we work within our constraints? After we looked on the Google machine, we started doing what I call adjacent resource exploration. Joe, who else do you know in the organization that might be a customer service guru? You’re not but are there other people? Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, there’s a whole group, you know, that works with our, our call center.

And yeah, they do all kinds of that. And he interrupted himself and started laughing. And I said, How’s your relationship with that group? And he said, Oh, yeah, the leader and I, we get along really? Well. You know, we’re both from and he named the city, where they’re, they grew up, and we both love and he named a professional sports team. And I was like, wow, okay. Sounds like you have a phone call to make when we hang up the phone. Not only did Joe have resources online, but he had resources in the building in the building. We tend to get so locked into the resources that are available, that we don’t even see things like the Google machine, or the team that’s three offices down or in the next building that enables us to take a step toward ingenuity with the resources at hand. Adjacent resource exploration is to ask yourself, How can I widen the aperture of my view, what other resources are around? Am I really looking fully at what’s available, we tend to under utilize the resources that are available.

Thinking broad and deep about our resources means getting out of just the center of the familiar resources that we go to all the time. The same people the same, the same, the same, you name it. Within a week, not only was the plan and the program put together for Joe’s customer training, but he had constructed a team that was actually going to deliver it. He pulled a few strings, he called in a few favors. He used his good influence with the leader of this other team. And within three months, the entire training not only had been done, but was all ready yielding good results. This is the power of using constraints. This is the power of seeing as Marcus Aurelius. One said that the obstacle becomes the way that the very thing we’re complaining about that we don’t have, or the obstacle or the challenge or the difficulty that we face becomes the actual door into the solution.


Looking broad, deep, taking a look around and understanding the resources that are available. And then utilizing those in creative ways, in clever ways MacGyvering them, this person who ended up helping with the the training for Joe, she wasn’t on his team, she didn’t have to do this, she became part of the master plan with her team of the MacGyvering of customer service training. And it actually built a good relationship between the two teams that yielded positive vibes and good outcomes for months and months ahead. This is what happens when we allow our limitations to be an ally in the process of ingenuity, instead of resource deprivation, it’s resource constrained.

But that constraint actually ignites the possibility of ingenuity. How do we do what we need to do with what we have? Not by burning people out? Not by squeezing the life out of everybody? How do we in the right timing, pacing and intensity? How do we accomplish what needs to be accomplished? I am not suggesting that a team or an organization should simply keep saying yes to every single priority that comes around.

And just keep saying, well, we’ll just have to be more ingenious, well have to be more ingenious, of course not. constrained, does come with some realities that we have to pay attention to. This is a mindset shift. I’ve seen teams with plenty of resource to get moving, live in deprivation mindset, because they didn’t want to try. It’s hard to be ingenious, it’s hard to be clever. It’s hard to utilize your resources in new ways to advance your mission and create a solution that advances where you need to go in a particular moment in that complex system that you work. It’s hard. And it takes a kind of diligence to press through the inertia that is so easy to fall prey to when difficult times emerge.

Yeah, if we had unlimited resources, maybe we could do that, really, because I just came from an organization down the street that has less than you, and they are crushing it. The way in which we view the constraints we find ourselves in has a lot to do with the possibility of ingenuity. The more constraints are something that we value, including resource constraint, the more likely we are to turn those into gold. To turn what we have into what we need to advance what matters. When you face your constraints, whether they’re people, or resources, or the culture, or whatever it might be. Ask yourself these two questions. First, have we looked broad and deep in adjacent spaces, to make sure that we have really utilize the resources that are at hand and possible? And number two?

How can we best inventively and creatively utilize what we discovered? How do we do it? How do we get creative in these constraints? The story is told at least in the movie of Apollo 13, that at one point, they have to use the front cover of the manual for this filter that they’re building. And so Tom Hanks character, which probably did happen, pulls the front cover off the manual, and says something sarcastic about the manual as if this is a better use for the front cover. How do we get creative, get resourceful, inventive with what we have, and that includes how do we tap the creativity of people around us? Joe just got stuck in the inertia of frustration around his limitations. But as we were able to get past that then the energy for what could be took him, captured him. And it changed not only his view of his mandate, but the way in which that mandate was executed and how other people in the organization became part of it, it became a vibrant project


rather than a dull, boring, necessary compliance with them, you know them, you know, they, they are making me What if your constraints, can you think of some now, right now that you’re facing in your leadership, in your projects, in your organization, in the mission? Where are the resource constraints? Where are just the constraints in general? What if you could go into those and start asking this question, how do we find a way to do what we need to do? Using what we have not what we wish we had