A Beautiful Constraint: How to Transform Your Limitations Into Advantages, and Why It's Everyone's Business
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More About This Title A Beautiful Constraint: How to Transform Your Limitations Into Advantages, and Why It's Everyone's Business


An inspiring yet practical guide for transforming limitations into opportunities

A Beautiful Constraint: How to Transform Your Limitations Into Advantages And Why It's Everyone's Business Now is a book about everyday, practical inventiveness, designed for the constrained times in which we live. It describes how to take the kinds of issues that all of us face today—lack of time, money, resources, attention, know-how—and see in them the opportunity for transformation of oneself and one's organization's fortunes. The ideas in the book are based on the authors' extensive work as business consultants, and are brought to life in 35 personal interviews from such varied sources as Nike, IKEA, Unilever, the U.S. Navy, Formula One racecar engineers, public school teachers in California, and barley farmers in South Africa. Underpinned by scientific research into the psychology of breakthrough, the book is a practical handbook full of tools and tips for how to make more from less. Beautifully designed and accessible, A Beautiful Constraint will appeal beyond its core business audience to anyone who needs to find the opportunity in constraint.

The book takes the reader on a journey through the mindset, method and motivation required to move from the initial "victim" stage into the transformation stage. It challenges us to:

  • Examine how we've become path dependent—stuck with routines that blind us from seeing opportunity along new paths
  • Ask Propelling Questions to help us break free of those paths and put the most pressing and valuable constraints at the heart of our process
  • Adopt a Can If mentality to answer these questions—focused on "how," not "if"
  • Access the abundance to be found all around us to help transform constraints
  • Activate the high-octane mix of emotions necessary to fuel the tenacity required for success

We live in a world of seemingly ever-increasing constraints, driven as much by an overabundance of choices and connections as by a scarcity of time and resources. How we respond to these constraints is one of the most important issues of our time and will be a large determinant of our progress as people, businesses and planet, in the future. A Beautiful Constraint calls for a more widespread capability for constraint-driven problem solving and provides the framework to achieve that.


ADAM MORGAN is the author of Eating The Big Fish: How Challenger Brands Can Compete Against Brand Leaders, the international bestseller that introduced the concept of challenger brands to the world of marketing. His ideas have been widely cited as a key influence by a new generation of successful entrepreneurs and business leaders around the world. He is founder of eatbigfish, a renowned marketing consultancy that works with clients to develop their own breakthrough strategies, from Helsinki to Hanoi.

MARK BARDEN runs the west coast business for eatbigfish in the US. Over his career he's won the Platinum Award for direct response marketing, taken a dot com public, warmed up a crowd for Ellen De Generes, and played a Buddhist monk in a Kleenex commercial. His advice on how to create breakthrough thinking with outsize results is much sought after. He is a popular speaker, world class facilitator and occasional coach.


Introduction 1

The beauty in constraint, and why it matters

1. Victim, Neutralizer, & Transformer 16

Our starting relationship with constraints

2. Break Path Dependence 34

The behaviors and practices that stop us seeing opportunity in constraint

3. Ask Propelling Questions 56

How to frame the constraint to force breakthrough

4. Can-If 78

How to find solutions to constraint-driven problems

5. Creating Abundance 102

How to see and access resources we don’t have

6. Activating Emotions 124

How to fuel tenacity on the journey

7. The Fertile Zero 146

Learning from people who succeeded with next to nothing

8. Constraint-Driven Cultures 172

How big companies have learned to love constraints

9. Scarcity and Abundance 194

Why this capability is so important to all of us today

10. Making Constraints Beautiful 208

How to use the ABC approach

11. Leadership & The Future of Constraints 224

The opportunity for progress

Notes and Sources 235

Bibliography and Further Reading 249

Image Credits 251

Appendix 253

Thanks and Acknowledgments 263

Index 267


"a wealth of knowledge, insight and evidence to learn from" (The Marketing Society, April 2015)

“Morgan and Barden have produced a thought-provoking book for leaders and entrepreneurs looking to inject fresh thinking into their perspectives on business”. (The Irish Times, May 2015)

“..there are tons of inspiring and interesting case studies….it will inspire, guide and challenge you to find your way around – if not over – that hurdle you currently face.” (Marketing, June 2015)

“..in the assured hands of Morgan and Barden, it’s a gentle but insistent boot up the backside for anyone who wants to improve their business – or personal – performance” (PR Week, July 2015)