Joyce uses the analogy of a playground. 12 Researchers found that when you put up a fence around a playground, children will use the entire space—they’ll feel safe to play all the way to the edges. But if those walls are removed, creating a wide-open playground, the space the children choose to play in contracts: they stay toward the middle and they stick to each other, because that’s what feels safe. This, Joyce suggests, is what happens in the creative process. When there are no clear limits in the brief itself, we aren’t sure what boundaries to explore and push against. We end up without the necessary focus and passion of which Marissa Mayer speaks. In fact, one of Joyce’s surprise findings was that in the absence of explicit constraints, the unconstrained teams created more conflict, stemming from all the different unarticulated assumptions and implicit constraints that team members created in their own heads, as if to fill the void.
Paul Seward runs an NGA in Kenya called Farm Input Promotions (FIPS-Africa), dedicated to increasing the productivity of the local smallholder farmers, many of whom have just a quarter-acre of land. Seward discovered that if you paint the chicks blue, the eagles and hawks don’t realize what they are, and don’t try to eat them. The biodegradable paint washes off in ten weeks, by which time the chicks have enough yard-smarts to run for cover when they see a shadow overhead.
Because the farmers are losing fewer chicks to birds of prey, it is now more worthwhile for them to inoculate the young birds against disease. Through both of these measures, they have gone from a survival rate of 20 percent to close to 85 percent. Because the farmers have more chickens, they are eating more chickens themselves — and better nutrition means a healthier family. And because it is now a better business, more people are taking up chicken farming. Oh, and the idea has created an entirely new profession: chicken painters, who charge three Kenyan shillings to paint each chick. A fascinating example of the cumulative benefits of a simple idea across an entire ecosystem.