Strategically Constrained: How to Turn Limitations Into Opportunities - Forte Labs

Alessio Frateily

Hatched by Alessio Frateily

Jun 28, 2023

3 min read


Strategically Constrained: How to Turn Limitations Into Opportunities - Forte Labs

In today's world, it seems that for every new resource we are given, we are also handed a constraint. However, the people and companies that are thriving are the ones who see these constraints as opportunities rather than obstacles. They understand that the best place to look for breakthrough capabilities is right behind their biggest constraint.

If we accept that there is a tradeoff between abundance and constraint, we are already operating from a scarcity mindset. The most scarce thing in a world of scarcity is original thinking. Instead of compromising and making the best of things, we should strive to break the wheel, like Daenerys Targaryen, mother of dragons, always says.

But what is the actual mechanism behind turning constraints into opportunities? What are the underlying principles? Constraints provide boundaries for us to explore and push against, focusing our energy and creativity on a limited scope. They introduce conflicting frames and cognitive dissonance, which drive us to find solutions. They promote higher complexity and broader conceptual scope, expanding the space of possible solutions. And they encourage mental contrasting, comparing future benefits with the inevitable future if nothing changes, which drives behavior change.

The problem with abundance is that our mental machinery did not evolve for it. When we are flooded with opportunities and options, we lose our anchors and stepping stones. However, when we encounter a constraint, powerful subsystems in our brain come online, expanding and accelerating our thinking. Our challenge is to move from a scarcity to an abundance mindset while retaining the ability to strategically stimulate and redirect our primal capabilities.

To turn constraints into opportunities, we can follow a 5-step process:

  • 1. Raise your bold ambition: Instead of lowering your level of ambition in the face of a constraint, increase it massively. Combine the constraint with a bold ambition to form a propelling question that gives your search a shape and direction.
  • 2. Create a propelling question: A propelling question is formed by combining the constraint and the bold ambition. It helps to focus your thinking and exploration.
  • 3. Give the propelling question legitimacy, authority, and accountability: Humans work best when there is accountability. Make sure your propelling question has legitimacy and authority, and hold yourself accountable for finding a solution.
  • 4. Identify undervalued resources: Many times, we undervalue the resources we already have. Look for your "productivity superpower" - the ability that is effortless and fun for you. Find ways to trade this resource with others who have something you need.
  • 5. Write a "We can if..." statement: Combine the propelling question with the new resources you've identified to form a statement that turns the tradeoff inside out, making the constraint itself a component of the solution.

Being resourceful is not about owning or controlling lots of resources. It is about accessing resources without having to own them, by relying on the relationships, networks, communities, and organizations we are already a part of.

In conclusion, constraints are not barriers to what we want in life, but gateways to unique opportunities. By embracing constraints and seeing them as opportunities, we can tap into our untapped potential and find creative solutions. So, the next time you encounter a constraint, don't be discouraged. Instead, see it as a chance to think outside the box and turn it into an opportunity for growth and success.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Challenge yourself to raise your level of ambition in the face of constraints. Think big and push beyond conventional approaches.
  • 2. Identify your "productivity superpower" - the ability that comes effortlessly and is enjoyable for you. Find ways to leverage this resource and trade it with others.
  • 3. Hold yourself accountable by giving your propelling question legitimacy, authority, and accountability. Set clear goals and deadlines to ensure progress.

Remember, constraints are not limitations, but opportunities waiting to be discovered.

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