Tag Archives: inspiration

Learning to Love Constraints, the BrewDog Way


In my ongoing quest to learn from best, I’ve just read ‘Business For Punks’ by James Watt, the co-founder of BrewDog, the poster child for the craft beer revolution that is sweeping the Globe.

It’s an incredible story and it’s a great read. Insightful, clear and written with the same punk attitude as the brand. I heartily recommend it – even if you don’t like beer.

Although they see themselves as true rebels, in many ways they’re deeply conventional. They do the fundamentals really well. They have a forensic attention to detail on cost and finances, – the punk accountants! – an unerring obsession with the quality of their product and a deep sensitivity towards the culture of the business and the role of every individual. All great stuff.

However, what really caught my attention was the fact that as a small business, up against wealthy megabrands, they truly embraced the constraints they operated under and saw them as a springboard for success.

‘When it comes twenty first century marketing, not having a budget is definitely not a problem. In fact, it is a massive advantage masquerading as a thinly veiled constraint’

This ultimately drove them to embark on such ground breaking initiatives as their ‘Equity For Punks’ crowdfunding scheme, which is now extending to the USA. They understood that their constraints were opportunities for innovation.

This is the philosophy that we preach at ‘A Beautiful Constraint’ where we see limitations as advantages and sources of inspiration. Our point of view is that it is by truly embracing your constraint you will be forced to challenge your underlying assumptions, break out of existing modes of thinking and develop new alternative solutions.

We live in constrained times. More limitations are likely to be imposed upon us. In the future, the winners will be those who are able to turn their constraints to their advantage


Why it’s good to be messy


Last year one of my favourite books was Maria Kondo’s ‘The Life Changing Magic of Tidying‘ It really did change my life. I threw out all the clothes that didn’t give me joy, cleared out all my old work files and visited Wandsworth tip on a regular basis. I recommended it to everyone I know.

However, this year the book I keep banging on about is Tim Harford’s ‘Messy. How to be Creative and Messy in a Tidy Minded World’. It’s the complete opposite of the Magic of Tidying, but is just as compelling and inspiring. This book argues the case for introducing disorder, chaos and randomness into our lives in order to make us more productive and creative. What I love about it is the variety of source material he draws upon – music collaboration, building design, aircraft safety – and it’s relaxed, anecdotal style. Plus for someone, who find’s it easy to be messy, it made me feel less guilty about the state of my office.


Where To Look For New Ideas


‘Originality is nothing but judicious imitation’


This is one of my favourite quotes as it encapsulates how the creative process works. Essentially, generating new ideas is all about voyeurism and theft – searching for existing ideas and then adapting them to create something new. But where do you look for inspiration and who do you steal from?

1 Look Backwards

Another great quote

‘He who cannot draw on 3 000 years is living from hand to mouth’


The most obvious start point it to learn from the past. You can do this in lots of ways

(a) Study and imitate your heroes. This is what all great musicians, artists, writers, fashion designers, film directors always do. Read any biography and you’ll see that they started out studying and copying the past masters. The Beatles were inspired by Elvis and Little Richard. Picasso was inspired by Cezanne.

(b) Study successful product and service ideas from the past and try to update them for a modern age. For example the Sony Walkman was invented in 1979 and become the template for the iPod which was launched in 2001. Wikipedia replicated the need for encyclopaedias. Go to London’s Design Museum if you get the chance. It’s a great source of inspiration.

2 Look Forwards

This means being sensitive to what’s new and emergent, so you can catch the latest trends and be ahead of the curve. So how to do you do this?

(a) Talk to people who you consider to be influential and experts in their field and seek their opinion e.g. technology experts, scientists, journalists

(b) Observe what’s happening in ‘leading edge’ cultures e.g. fashionable districts of cities, music venues, art galleries

(c) Read avidly. There’s so much published nowadays from trend spotting websites, magazines and blogs that collate and proffer opinion on what’s new and interesting. Popular sites are trendwatching and springwise.

if you don’t have time to do it yourself, there’s lots of people out there who can help you, such as Space Doctors or Futures Coaching

This way you’ll be able to keep fresh and current in your idea generation.

 3 Look Sideways

This means reviewing and learning from what’s happening in adjacent categories or different worlds. You can do this in lots of ways. For example:

(a) review a category / business / brand that is dealing with a similar problem to yours and observe how they’ve dealt with it. For example, if your issue is ‘improving customer service’ learn from how other people have done it well. Zappo’s would be great place to start. If your task is appealing to a specific target audience, review how other brands in completely different categories target them successfully.

(b) steal from a very different category or world and adapt it to your own. For example personal care brand Lush, learnt how to present their soap and personal care products by learning from fresh food deli counters.

(c) observe and adapt ideas from different cultures. Restaurants, food writers and food brands do this all time, by mixing and matching ingredients and recipes from different cuisines. (I’d love to try a cronut).Interior designers do this by adding style cues from other cultures.

(d) go back to nature. Take inspiration from the natural world, which has often worked out how to solve problems. For example in 1948 velcro was invented when a mountaineer on a walk observed how burrs from plants stuck to the fur of his dog.

Ideas are everywhere. You’ve just got to know where look for them.