I recently read a business book called “A Beautiful Constraint: How to Transform Your Limitations into Advantages, and Why It’s Everyone’s Business” by Adam Morgan and Mark Barden. It describes how to use constraints, like lack of time, money, resources, attention, know-how, and use them to help transform your company for the better.
The book discusses how to shift away from the typical “victim” role by understanding how our routines control things, asking the right questions, and focusing on “how” and not “if”. For an example, one of the recommendations discussed in the book is that in your group sessions no one on your team is allowed to utter the words “we can’t because…” but must replace those words with “we can if…”. This forces the generation of ideas and promotes a positive attitude rather than a victim attitude.
The book describes how many innovations were created due to constraints and those innovations would never have been created without having those constraints to direct the thinking. To force innovation in your organization you can create constraints for your team, even if they are just artificial constraints, to help foster innovation and push for “outside the box” thinking. The tougher the constraint, the greater the challenge for your team but then possibly the greater the final outcome.
The term Theory of Constraints may be common to some. However this concept is different than what is being discussed in this book. The TOC essentially relies on managing the constraint or eliminating it, and then address the next constraint in sequence. The authors here propose to exploit the constraint or leverage it to create a new possibility, hence the title “beautiful constraint”.
As we all know the mining industry as a whole has more than enough constraints placed upon it right now, be it lack of funding, lack of skilled talent, environmental pressures, supply-demand issues, social issues, security issues, etc. Each operation or mining project may have additional constraints above and beyond those of the general industry, so one does not need really to create artificial constraints for your team. The mining industry almost has no option but to try to use these constraints in a constructive manner and not let them pull the industry down or simply try to wait and they will go away. When people say “mining is cyclical and it will all turn around soon” is an example of waiting for the constraint to go away. Well how long do you wait before taking your own action?
My bottom line is that the book was enlightening, although maybe telling us what we already know subconsciously but don’t acknowledge openly. Don’t wait, start innovating, and don’t be afraid of grand innovations. The book should be required reading for all those working in the mining industry today.