Creativity Loves Constraints

One of my favorite sayings is “Creativity loves constraints.” Whether you are talking about technology, or the “slugburger,” it remains true.

During the Depression era and years after, stock grocery stores like the one my Grandparents started (Phillips Grocery in Holly Springs, MS) had to get creative to feed the hungry with limited resources. Out of this collective constraint, the slugburger was born. This variation of the hamburger is made with a combination of beef and filler (corn starch, potato flakes, soy meal, etc) to get more mileage out of the protein.

Simple approach and solution to a significant problem:

* They listened to their customers – Instead of raw groceries, they needed a hot meal to-go when the train stopped nearby. They didnt have a lot of money.

* They adapted – after buying a seasoned (aka used) flat iron griddle, they were able to quickly serve delicious hot food to the constant flow of railway workers.

* They were creative in delivering value – by cooking a patty with meal and fat content, it would not only feed more people, but also fry itself on the griddle and create a (unique) crispy burger with a soft but stable bun that would hold up.

Today, the slugburger is a popular regional delicacy and can be found at many restaurants and street festivals in northern Mississippi and the surrounding area. It has gained a cult following among foodies and travelers. Phillips Grocery won recognition for one of the best hamburgers in America by USA Today in the late 80’s.

Takeaway – Whatever you start off creating in your entrepreneurial endeavor may end up completely different based on your customer feedback, your resources at the time, and your team problem solving. The most important thing is to start, adapt, and keep going!

  • It’s believed the invention of the original “Weeksburger” was brought from Chicago to Corinth, MS in 1917, and who invented the term slugburger is unknown. There are many variations including Phillips Grocery.
  • “Creativity loves constraint” is seemingly first attributed to Marisa Mayer, then Tim Gunn, but for me most notably heard from my colleague Kim Stonehouse.

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