Explore Ways to Limit Your Creativity

Creative AdaptationThis is part three of the Creative Adaptation series.

Could you remake an entire movie only using bunnies and keep it to 30 seconds?

What about painting a reproduction of Leonardo da Vinci’s self-portrait on a grain of rice?

Would the constraints of developing for the iPhone be refreshing to you?

The quote about necessity being the mother of invention is an overused cliche because it’s true.

Constraints can drive creativity, and when it comes to creative adaptation, it is a key element.

Constraints to the Right of Me… Constraints, to the Left of Me…

In the realm of creative adaptation, constraints help drive the process. You walk a very fine edge between being too much like the original and moving too far away from the core concepts of the original.

If it’s too alike — you teeter on the brink of plagiarism.

If it’s too different, you aren’t being true to the adaptation. This may be fine for many projects, but the point of creative adaptation is to use the inspiration from the original to spark your own version.

In other instances, straying too far may be disastrous. Think of how many movies were panned because they strayed to far from the book. When my software company redesigned an application, we had to bring it up to date and make it more user friendly, but had to stay within the constraints of the original. If it was too different, it could fail because of baby duck syndrome.

There are times when just a kernel of inspiration will spark a completely new work. But even in those cases, utilizing the constraints of adaptation will really get you thinking in new ways.

Make It Your Own

The most fundamental thing about creative adaptation is making it your own. Use a work or idea as a starting point, then craft it and mold it into your own interpretation.

Tony Robbins adapted Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) into his own techniques. He kept enough of the original NLP concepts, that his methods didn’t sound completely foreign to personal development students. But he made them his own, and created an empire.

Most “new marketing” concepts are just interpretations of what David Ogilvy said years before. There are quite a few marketing gurus out there who are preaching ideas that they adapted from Ogilvy.

Again, this is good because the core concepts are sound. They work. Taking those concepts, putting your own spin on it, and providing your own unique interpretation is what creative adaptation is all about.

A Word About Plagiarism

First, I am not a lawyer. I don’t play one on TV, nor did I sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

But, I firmly believe that it’s crucial that everyone in business has at least a basic understanding of intellectual property law and fair use.

Big companies like to make up their own versions, like the NFL telling you that it’s illegal for you to talk about a game without their consent. Or the ongoing douche-baggery of the entertainment cartel.

It’s important to know your rights, but also the rights of others.

A couple of great resources to get you started are Plagiarism Today and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

In part four we’ll look at ways you can use creative adaptation to benefit your business…

Creative Adaptation Series


  1. Good artists are especially adept at using constraints. I was recently inspired by the Micromentalist Manifesto. It is a system of constraints that enables some artists to make up to a hundred artworks a day.

    There are two types of constraints. Those imposed onto us and those we impose on ourselves. Creative people see no difference between these two. Complainers don’t do anything because they moan about being imposed on. And slackers don’t do anything because they can’t impose on themselves.

  2. Me again. I read what I wrote above and realised that it sounds a bit condescending. Its not. I realise that I’m a slacker or a moaner most of the time. I want to be creative though.

    And that’s the point of Tony’s series of posts. Encouragement for all of us to embrace our creative side.

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