Scarcity of Resources Drives Creativity

Kristin and I just got back from a long weekend in New Glarus, Wisconsin. We arrived at New Glarus Woods State Park Friday afternoon, headed into Madison for one of Guster’s first shows since their Easy Wonderful album release. They played at the Overture Center, which turned out to be an incredible place to see a show. Here’s a video sneak peak of Do You Love Me?.

We spent Saturday cruising around the quaint, Swiss-inspired town of New Glarus. After making the rounds of the little shops in town, we stopped at Glarner Stube to enjoy an afternoon snack and local brews from New Glarus Brewing Company. Inspired by its taste, our next stop was the brewery just up the road. The brewery was just as impressive as the taste of its beer, as you can see by the work we did before heading back to New Glarus Woods State Park.

Once we got back to our campsite, we settled in to our oversized camping chairs and started a fire in preparation for a chilly evening ahead. Kristin continued reading Choke in order to prepare for an upcoming magazine pitch. I cracked open A Whole New Mind by David Pink. Ironic we were both reading books on the human brain. But I digress. One thing we were for sure … relaxed. It was quiet, other than the occasional squirrel scampering across the maple leaves that had dropped a layer of crunchy carpet beneath our feet.

Relaxed and quiet. Two things I don’t experience frequently in today’s crazy-connected world. If it’s not family, it’s friends. If it’s not friends, it’s work. If it’s not work, it’s school. If it’s not school, it’s volunteering. If it’s not volunteering, it’s thinking about what I should be thinking about. And so on and so forth. But not this Saturday afternoon. I had nothing to do. Nothing.

After enjoying reading and doing nothing, Kristin and I decided to start a game of Pass the Pigs. We pulled up the cooler to use as our tabletop and made our way through a flurry of intense competitive action. We opened our ice-cold Goose Island by using the corner of the picnic table.

We then found the perfect stick from the surrounding forest to use as our fire stocker to keep the coals motivated for warmth. We used the abundance of leaves surrounding us as the running tally of how many games each of us had won throughout the evening.

Our behaviors that evening made me realize something. The less people have to figure things out, the more creative they get with that they do have. Scarcity of resources drives creativity. If people are faced with limited resources to accomplish a goal, they will explore non-traditional ways of problem solving and typically end up with a more creative solution in the end. My wife and I making the most of our camping experience demonstrated this. Professionally, I’ve seen this take place when clients initiate a request with a small budget on an expedited timeline. Disclaimer: I’m not advocating ridiculous deadlines and small budgets. Things need to be fair. Additionally, in order for creativity to come out at its finest in these situations, you need to have the right (small) team working collaboratively. Scarce resources encourage people to be less wasteful and more thoughtful.

You don’t need more time or money to be creative. You have plenty of resources at your disposal; you might just need to look harder to find them. Once you’ve found them, you’re off to the races and creativity will run into you when you least expect it.