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Making creativity and innovation happen
Making creativity and innovation happen

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4.2 When constraints are unavoidable

In some situations constraints simply cannot be avoided. They might, in fact, be inherent in the environment or situation and implicitly require that creative and innovative solutions address them effectively. For example, if you are living in a very cold climate a creative housing solution will most likely be quite different to one found in a very hot climate, as in both situations you would be both constrained by and guided by the requirements of the situation.

When NASA scientists were developing vehicles for use on the moon, they had to rethink what you might take for granted about wheels. Through a process of trial and error and by learning from the constraints imposed upon by them by the extreme context and its requirements, NASA scientists were ultimately able to develop a hugely creative solution – the Superelastic Tire.

Figure 10 Superelastice tires

Superelastic Tires better meet the needs of vehicles designed for use on the Moon, Mars and in other extreme conditions because the tyres are:

  • safe: eliminates the possibility of puncture failure
  • strong: can withstand excessive deformation
  • robust: can be configured for high traction on various terrains
  • simple: eliminates the need for air
  • versatile: tire stiffness can be designed to limit energy transferred to vehicle
  • lightweight: no inner frame needed for the tire/wheel assembly.
(NASA, n.d.)

NASA’s capacity to be creative in the face of non-negotiable constraints led to the development of a radically different type of tyre. It is not hard to imagine that in the absence of the constraints imposed upon NASA by the rigorous conditions encountered in space this incredibly creative and innovative solution would never have happened!