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A Beautiful Constraint

By Adam Morgan

Book Review

–by Vern Hyndman

Constraints have always rankled me, chaffing my sensibility like rough iron manacles. Whenever possible, I have reduced the constraints in my life, always leaning towards the open range of possibility. Imagine my surprise when reading “A Beautiful Constraint” that in thwarting constraints, I have also thwarted important creativity.

Morgan says that the human response to constraint is initially victimhood, and after victimhood, we can progress to acceptance of the constraint. The real magic of the constraints is beyond acceptance; the real magic of constraint is a mindset that sees opportunity in a constraint. Morgan frames the entire book in real-world examples of the progression from victim to acceptance to opportunity.

Past the obvious stories of companies beset by an unexpected constraint, Morgan suggests that creative people benefit by deliberately imposing constraints on themselves.

Morgan provides tools by which we can implement the creative processes suggested in the book. The Can-If cycle maintains a positive orientation to creativity. Constraints are rarely one-dimensional, and the Can-If provides vision when facing interlocking constraints. A Can-If chart has two columns; the leftmost is “We can’t because” and the rightmost is “We can if.” We can’t if “we don’t have any natural resources” but we Can-If “we see people as natural resources.”

Another tool Morgan offers is the tool of Abundance, using improve theater as an example. Improve comedians use the openings other comedians provide as a means of accessing their creativity. Abundance is the response to scarcity and constraint of finding new value in what we already have.

A Beautiful Constraint is a book that has stopped me in my tracks, and it has convinced me that I have been unintentionally shooting myself in the foot because of my negative attitude about constraints. I am in the process of realignment since reading the book, and the ideas are bearing fruit in new self-imposed constraints.

I buy most books on Kindle if they’re available, but I bought “A Beautiful Constraint” as a hardcover book. This hardcover is a beautiful book, with high-quality pictures and illustrations, and a red thumb-index along the fore edge of the book.


Morgan, Adam. A Beautiful Constraint: How To Transform Your Limitations Into Advantages, and Why It’s Everyone’s Business (p. 5). Wiley. Kindle Edition.