The aim of this chapter is the introduction of two new concepts, ‘balancing constraints’ and ‘the sweet spot of creativity’, as promising new paths for creativity research. This is motivated by the fact that creativity research shows a growing interest in the fundamental entwinement of constraints and creativity, with skillful and innovative handling of constraints seen as a prerequisite for apt creative performance. Based on a brief review of current disparate conceptualizations of constraints as both enablers and restrainers of creative activities, we begin by proposing the unifying concept ‘creativity constraints’ to help establish common terminological ground. Since the presence of constraints change over time, we suggest the term ‘constrainedness’ to articulate this total constraint intensity at a given time. This allows us to introduce our main contribution, the concept ‘the sweet spot’, to address the salient situations where the creative practitioner can be said to experience the ‘right’ level of constrainedness conducive to optimum creative performance. We then proceed to consider how the sweet spot can be attained by balancing constraints, i.e., by manipulating the intensity of constrainedness. More concretely, this means by hardening or softening the constraints at hand, resulting in a higher or lower level of constrainedness. Finally, we discuss how future studies can employ and inform these new concepts, which we see as potentially rich for cross-disciplinary creativity research focusing on the essential entwinement of constraints and creativity.
Creativity in Design: Understanding, Capturing, Supporting, 2017