Are People More Creative or Productive Working without Limits?

No. Absolutely not. Boundaries matter. One of the biggest threats to not reaching your goal is working without limits. The biggest disaster most people have is when they’re given an unlimited budget, no deadline, or no expectations. I see it all the time in Hollywood, where a movie director has experienced success, so a studio gives him total freedom. Most of the time, that results in a disastrous movie.We also see it with government contracts.

The less accountability, the higher the cost overruns and delays. The truth is, whether they admit it or not, creative and productive people operate best in the context of boundaries. Not rigid rules or unrealistic burdens, but constructive markers and expectations. For me it’s deadlines.

I can’t even really get excited about a project until we get near the deadline, then everything kicks in. If you’re in a situation with no outside boundaries, then impose them yourself. Give yourself a deadline or a limited budget. And if you’re a leader, never let your employees operate without clearly marked expectations. Then get out of the way and let them run. You’ll find it creates far more incentive to excel.


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  1. Great post- your comments are very reassuring. I’ve always operated best with boundaries. They keep me from that ‘thought paralysis’ that ensues when I begin to second guess my choices because “there might be a better way….” I always thought of it as a creative weakness on my part.

  2. Yes I totally believe in creative boundaries; its the old expression “Youth is wasted on the Youth”. When I was younger and had all the time in the world I didnt do much with it. Now that I’m older with more responsibilities, I manage my time alot better and can write about 1400 words of my novel in about 2 hours before work each day.

  3. Great post.  When I was my most innovative, strategic and fruitful in ministry is when my budget was cut.  Cut drastically.  I had to do what was most important to the success of the ministry’s mission and we saw fruit that was unparalled in our ministry.  

    Although I was bent at first because my budget was cut, it challenged me to do things we had never done before.  It was one of my favorite times in ministry.  

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