A Beautiful Constraint Summary By Adam Morgan

A Beautiful Constraint Review

Short Summary

  • "It is a transformative actionable book that cites examples from different fields to indicate where firms, companies, and entrepreneurs turned limitations into springboards by undertaking transformative approaches to deal with obstacles."

Here’s a Beautiful Constraint chapters summary to get the gist and the author’s message:

Chapter 1: Victim, Neutraliser & Transformer

The authors have defined constraint as a limitation or defining parameter. It is often the stimulus to find a better way of doing something. The illustration of the playground without a fence, where children huddle together to feel safe and explore all the space when there is barrier fencing, describes the positive impact of limits. Our positive approach turns barriers into transformative constraints. When confronted with a constraint-ridden scenario, we can play the victim and find an excuse or find a way to avoid them.

Lastly, we can unlock the power of constraint to improve our goal and remove obstacles to an advantage. When faced with an impediment, one goes through three stages; victim, neutralizer, and transformer. Restrictions are good as they enhance our inventiveness in dealing with huge constraints to meet our goals.

Adam shares an example of Phil Knight and Dan Vieden. The duo behind Nike enterprise, one of the world’s leading brands how turned constraints to construct their business a success. Adam discusses the power of the 3 M’s: Mindset, Method, and Motivation, to cross hurdles by asking the right questions that help steer us from victim to transformer.

Chapter 2: Break Path Dependence

Our tendency to look at the problems in the same old way with the same old approach by analyzing the same old data will only repeat the same problem. An example in the book that explains dependence on the old ways is the width of the space shuttle solid fuel engines equal to the width of roads built 2000 years ago to transport them from Utah to Florida.

An innovative advertisement idea by Nike:

“The world is going to hell in a Nike bag,”

is a classical example of breaking path dependence. It requires small steps instead of a big jump to break dependence.

Following are the key points to break through when faced with a difficult constraint.

  • A clear understanding of the dependence on old ways and a will to challenge the old wisdom
  • Identification of the most important six words used in an organization
  • Challenging each process step
  • Using different and external lenses (external people or consumers)when facing a constraint
  • Asking different questions(old questions lead to old answers)

Chapter 3: Ask Propelling Questions

This type of question is not merely difficult, such as how to double turnover in two years. It’s a powerful and overambitious question to inspire out-of-the-box thinking. Difficult questions demand a different approach rather than staying within the normal parameters of the problem solutions.

Important questions start with “how to’ and ‘how can. Questions like “how can we reduce car accidents?”. Framing the question for barley farmers would “how to grow better barley with less water?” cite one example in the book that shows the significance of propelling questions to identify a solution.

Audi asked a propelling question: “How to win LeMans if our car could go no faster than the others?” The answer was to make it more gas efficient (with fewer pit stops). Hence the development of the first Diesel racing car that won LeMans three years in a row.

The right questions lead to constraint-driven problem-solving

Chapter 4: Can-If

‘Can-if’ questions are inherently built to surpass huge constraints, and “we can’t ” is a defeatist mindset. The former question will lead you to new possibilities, and the former will give you excuses. The former attitude makes us search for new alternatives by exploring different ways to reach our goal since constraints are seldom one-dimensional.

The core idea behind the Can-if attitude is to find an alternative solution with different strategies in case of failure. The Right question is important to solve a problem. An example of Taiwan best illustrates constraint-driven problem solving with multiple layers of Can=If questions. Taiwan needed a sound and self-reliant economy with the constraint of the absence of natural resources to ward off the Chinese pressure.

To overcome this constraint Can-If strategy played its role. They decided to raise their level of education to create resources for their country with a knowledge-driven population. The next constraint was the lack of teachers, surmounted with a revolutionary approach of using graduates as teachers. The next constraint of schools led to a paucity of funds. It was managed by extra funds collected from other government departments to benefit from raised education standards. They are a country of just 23m yet have the fourth largest cash reserves in the world.

Adam Morgan, the co-author of this book, also has another book to his credit, Eating the big fish, an international bestseller where he discusses the concept of challenger brands competing against brand leaders. Entrepreneurs can leverage their limits to create creative answers following the book called a beautiful constraint. Adam and Mark view constraints. The book shares examples of business success stories and how public school teachers in California and barley farmers from South Africa tackled situations of constraints.

Chapter 5: Creating Abundance

According to the research of social sciences, an innovative mindset and a drive for resourcefulness are more prevalent in less resourceful sections of the population than in the affluent classes. The chapter talks about the paradox of plenty fuels complacency in the exploration of new resources for sustainable growth. A positive mindset with a will to explore new resources helps overcome significant constraints.

Finding new ways in the face of crippling restraints of any nature is creating abundance. Take the example of how Virgin America found a new way to promote their airline by flying models of Victoria’s Secret to annual shows and making their motto of “put the glamour back into the air travel” in the face of paucity of funds. That is how Virgin America was able to unlock the power of constraint.

Adam discusses how a small firm that challenges the status quo and creates an environment of challenger thinking can eat up the incumbent goliaths of the world of business competitors. Creating sustainability from little and gaining a competitive advantage is the theme of this chapter.

Chapter 6: Activating Emotion

According to researchers, the bigger contributor to success than IQ is our tenacity and grit to carry on despite hurdles and setbacks. Coaches training elite marathon runners teach them to activate a high-octane mix of emotions to help them overcome daunting distances. When you cannot run with your legs, running with your heart is the motto when everything fails.

Dan Wieden (W&K advertising) signifies the power of negative emotions when he says,

“If you can remain insecure, yet optimistic, you’ve got a pretty good chance of changing the world.”

Nervousness and insecurity ignite dormant survival instincts and help you overcome constraints and develop creative solutions. Book also discusses three concepts about indulging, dwelling, and toggling to keep your engine of emotions at full throttle.

Chapter 7: Fertile Zero

The resource curse is a term that describes the paradoxical situation of underperforming economically despite plenty of natural resources. Resourcefulness breeds economic mismanagement and overdependence on a few sectors like oil. The economy of any organization or country dependent on fewer sectors has less chance of survival or progress during the lows of economic cycles. Coming up with novel ideas like publishing an unexpected annual report where Warby Parker mentioned their unexpected facts and mistakes.

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