The Limitation/Innovation Connection – How to Put a Contact Lens In With One Hand

Here’s a great story that Dick Anderson, an inspiring harmonica player from Colorado, sent in. Happy limitation/innovation!


I was struck by the quote in your latest newsletter “The best art is made within strict limitations.” It came at a time when I’m experiencing some discoveries in the innovation process.  I’m preparing for a shoulder surgery which will immobilize my right arm for 6 weeks.  Since I’m right handed, I’ve begun to learn how to operate with only the left arm/hand.

Among the many tasks at which I am trying to be more proficient with the left hand, putting in my contact lenses was particularly worrisome.  For 25 years, I’ve used two hands to pull my eyelids open while I insert the contact.

I resolved to try with only the left hand while learning how not to blink when I inserted the lens.  To my surprise, I found a new technique using only one hand in which I slide the top of the contact under the upper eyelid and then continue to press the remaining surface to my eye.  This works much better than my old method and my “first try” success rate is even better than with the old method.

Your note about limitations/constraints resonated with my experience.  My old technique for contact lens insertion was not the best, but it was not until I was limited to one hand that I discovered the better method.

It also seems to be the case for group creativity exercises in which the tool or material is limited but the objective is difficult.  By reducing the number of degrees of freedom, we naturally dig deeper for methods which might have been overlooked when a custom tool is available.  (If the only tool you have is a hammer, you might find ways of using it as a plumb bob, a screwdriver, or an apple picker.)

Thanks for the great newsletter and thanks for listening….

-       Dick Anderson, Colorado


Explore this idea more fully in Quixote Consulting’s team building and team development activities:

Innovator’s Quest – How can we inspire a culture of innovation? How can we take risks, be bold and allow for ‘mistakes’ that have the potential for great leaps in productivity?

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