Oh, business constraints how much I despise you…
I’ve read and heard about the how constraints can be a good thing in business, especially in the software world. Fred Wilson of AVC offers a good argument for the benefits of constraints, and cites examples like Twitter’s 140 characters, Facebook’s mobile applications, and Pandora’s battle over music rights and ad free streaming. He argues that operating with a set of constraints as you develop your software forces you to focus on what’s important and makes the user operate within a set of guidelines and rules.
Personally, I’ve never been one to enjoy constraints, and to quote Mark Wahlberg in the comedy The Other Guys, “I’m a peacock, you gotta let me fly!” (click the image or link to enjoy my favorite scene).
But recently, I started to appreciate constraints, especially in relationship to some budget and priority parameters we’re experiencing at BrightGauge. As we began to lay out our plans for the remainder of the year, I started to get overwhelmed by everything we could do. There were so many choices and opportunities, so the possibilities seemed endless. As I started to write up the plans, I realized there was NO WAY I could accomplish everything I wanted to do. It wasn’t a positive feeling at first.
These constraints forced me to take a hard look at our priorities and specifically focus on whether or not we were working on the right ones. The constraints forced me to identify any less important areas of focus or misguided priorities and make sure we weren’t allocating resources on them.
This morning, as I was finalizing our plans, my sense of dread was replaced with a feeling of relief. Constraints let me wipe the slate clean of things I can’t do, and refocus on the things I can. And after some careful thought and reflection, I believe I now have a short list of things I can do. I am also confident that these priorities are the right things on which to focus.
This exercise taught me a great personal lesson and I enjoyed the sense of calm that came once I wrapped my head around the constraints. I am very excited about the future and what we have coming down the road.