Good news for scrappy startups everywhere: Making do with bad tools might make it easier to produce good work.

That's according to economist Tim Harford. But it's not the tools that are key--it's the frustration and hurdles you have to overcome that wind up kickstarting your creative process. During a recent TED Talk in London, Harford told a story about American jazz pianist Keith Jarrett, who once played a concert in Germany using a piano that was too small to produce a loud enough sound to fill the Cologne Opera House and that had worn-out keys on either end of the keyboard. The only reason Jarrett agreed to play the show after discovering the venue had provided the wrong piano was pity for the young concert promoter who begged him not to cancel.

As Jarrett began to play, he limited himself to playing the notes that weren't worn out, and repeatedly pounded on the keys to create enough volume for everyone in the opera house to hear. The effect was magical, according to Harford.

"Jarrett was avoiding those upper registers [and] sticking to the middle tones of the keyboard, which gave the piece a soothing ambient quality," Harford says during the talk. "It's an electrifying performance that somehow has this peaceful quality and at the same time is full of energy and is dynamic."

The recording of the concert is the best selling piano album in history and the best selling solo jazz album in history. Why? According to Harford, working around frustrating obstacles unleashes people's creativity in a way that can't happen without these unnecessary hurdles. 

To hear other examples of how being frustrated helps with creativity, check out the full TED talk below.
 

Published on: Feb 11, 2016