The Masterchef one.

By Cyndi Dawes, Practice Director @ Huddle.

If like me and hundreds of thousands of people you are watching the latest series of Masterchef in Australia you may be amazed at the creativity, ingenuity and innovation being shown by contestants. Sure, these are no amateurs. They are now caterers, cookbook writers and restauranteurs. We expect they can cook, and cook well.

What we might not expect at first glance is that they actually cook better and more creatively on Masterchef than in their own restaurants and kitchens. The secret ingredient to the supercharged creativity we see is one you might not expect. It’s the constraints placed upon the contestants.

Whip up a delicious meal in 90 minutes featuring berries!

You can only use the ingredients on this bench.

Here’s a mystery box, use anything in it to make something delicious in 90 minutes… ok, here’s a couple more ingredients. Using them is mandatory!

Make something delicious using coffee and lamb, or mustard and mint or peanut butter and basil!

The ‘twist’ week saw more and more difficult constraints than I’ve ever seen on Masterchef. And, some of the best cooking, ever. 

Why are those constraints a secret ingredient? 

Let’s turn to another discipline briefly to explore this: architecture. Give an architect unlimited budget and a dream flat site with no planning restrictions, and they are unlikely to design their best work. A strangely shaped site, steep inclines, a modest budget, no direct access to northern light however sees our architects do some of their best work. 

The constraint provides the edge for the imagination to bump up against. 

The same applies to problem solving, change making and design. We often see clients worry that they will not be able to solve a problem or make positive change because they see their limitations as too onerous. However, limited budget, time constraints and legislative or other conditions provide the impetus that is needed to really exercise our creativity and develop solutions and designs that are founded in real world conditions. 

As human-centred designers, we see constraints as our friend. Let’s face it, knowing a constraint is easier than designing without having visibility of them! Constraints stop us from designing things that will never work and so long as we treat them as creativity boosters instead of barriers, we can do good work. 

When you’re next faced with some constraints that at first seem overwhelming, instead try and see them as a gift that will enable your best work. Be like a Masterchef contestant and have some fun with it, enabling some truly creative and focussed thinking.


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