Viability and affordability matter. On the one hand, budgets often determine the possibilities. If we can’t afford it, we probably can’t do it. On the other hand, rules and policies within an organization can be restrictive. “That’s not allowed!” Those rules and policies likely started for good reason, even if those reasons have been long forgotten.

Here’s the challenge we face: When resources (budgets) and regulations (policies) are the first consideration of innovation, they knock out 80% of our creative energy and insight.

Money (2)We’ve all been there. Highly structured families who can’t deviate from routines are rarely channels of creativity. Over-regulated industries (yes, even education) that assess every new idea based on regulatory compliance, seldom forge the future.

Regulations generally protect what is and what was. They maintain the status quo and guard against disruption. But true innovation is intrinsically disruptive. While regulations seek to sustain consistency of product or experience — and play a valuable role in preventing sheer chaos or vulnerability to exploitation — they make a poor starting line for the creative process.

The same might be said of premature resource-analysis. Many people assume that creativity belongs to the wealthy and the privileged, and that failure is not an affordable option for common folk. Real innovation, they think, requires significant financial investment. If we begin with this bias, we can safely assume that we’ll end our creative endeavors quickly.

Know this: Time and energy are always more important than resources and procedures. Along with human ingenuity and passion, they are almost boundless. Refugees living in tents and camps may have as much time and energy as highly-paid executives in plush suites. These are, in fact, our greatest resources and they rest at our fingertips and sometimes in our fingertips.

3-D printers for prototype construction is a luxury, not a necessity. Use cardboard and paperclips if necessary. Use scratchpads if you don’t have a laptop. Shop at the Dollar stores for construction materials, but don’t shut down brainstorming and problem-solving because of money. Don’t stop innovating and designing because some bureaucrat or bureaucracy set a restrictive policy.

If the need is genuine and the solution is genuinely good for other people, find a way. Resources follow ingenuity. Regulations will make way for compelling vision.

Have you been stymied by budgets, policies, and established procedures? How might you move the ball further down the field despite the blockers?

David Timms is Dean of the School of Christian Leadership at William Jessup University.