Embracing Constraints for Innovative Solutions - A ClipDish Case Study

  • 5 May, 2022

In the ever-evolving landscape of product development, one of the most counterintuitive yet effective strategies I’ve encountered is the deliberate imposition of constraints. This approach, though seemingly restrictive, can catalyze creativity and efficiency, leading to innovative solutions. A vivid example of this is the recent update to ClipDish, a popular app that transforms recipe websites into easy-to-use ingredients lists.

The Dilemma: To Build or Integrate?

ClipDish, much like a culinary maestro, has always aimed to make the cooking experience more streamlined and enjoyable. In its latest update, the focus was on enabling users to send ingredients to a shopping list directly. The straightforward solution? Build a grocery list feature into ClipDish. But, as I pondered this, a critical question arose: was this the most efficient use of resources?

The Power of Constraint-Driven Innovation

Deliberate constraints force us to rethink our usual ways of solving problems. In the case of ClipDish, the constraint was time. Building a grocery list feature from scratch would be time-consuming, and its return on investment was uncertain. Drawing inspiration from principles outlined in my knowledge source, particularly the agile methodology, I recognized the need for a solution that was quick to implement and offered immediate value to the users.

The Integration Solution

The breakthrough came with the decision to integrate ClipDish with Apple Reminders instead of building a new feature. This decision, born out of the time constraint, opened a pathway to an efficient, effective, and feature-rich solution. Integration cut down the implementation time drastically – from weeks to mere hours.

Unexpected Benefits

The integration not only solved the immediate issue but also brought additional, unforeseen advantages:

  1. Siri Compatibility: By leveraging Apple’s ecosystem, ClipDish users could now add items to their shopping list using Siri, enhancing the app’s usability and accessibility.

  2. Shared Lists: Another benefit was the functionality of shared lists, allowing families or roommates to collaborate on their shopping effortlessly.

  3. Focus on Core Strengths: This approach allowed the ClipDish team to focus on their core competencies, enhancing the recipe experience, rather than diverting resources to a tangentially related feature.

Lessons Learned

This experience with ClipDish underlines several key lessons in product strategy:

  • Embrace Constraints: Constraints, rather than being hurdles, can be catalysts for innovation. They compel us to think outside the box and find more efficient solutions.

  • Leverage Existing Solutions: Sometimes, the best solution is to integrate with existing platforms that already do the job well, rather than reinventing the wheel.

  • Agile Methodology: The agile approach, focusing on delivering value quickly and iteratively, can guide such decisions effectively. It emphasizes the importance of responding to change over following a rigid plan, as highlighted in the Agile Handbook in my knowledge base.

  • Customer-Centric Approach: Ultimately, the goal is to enhance the user experience. This decision did just that by providing additional benefits that a newly built feature might not have included.


The ClipDish update serves as a powerful example of how imposing constraints can lead to more creative, efficient, and effective solutions. It’s a reminder that sometimes, the best way to move forward is to limit our options, forcing us to think differently and more strategically. As product strategists, embracing this mindset can lead to surprising and satisfying solutions that align closely with our users’ needs and business goals.

Oh, and go try out the app ClipDish if you love to cook from recipes you find on the internet you’ll love the app!

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