True innovators do not recognise ‘the box’

Thinking outside the box is an activity to desperately try to force people to think innovatively.

“During a stormy day, driving your two-seater to town, you spot three people at a bus stop: an elderly lady, your friend who has recently done you a huge favour and the person of your dreams. What will you do?”

I was presented this scenario a few months ago. The right answer was presented as “I would give my friend the car keys and let them drive the elderly lady to town and wait at the bus stop with the person of my dreams”.

This scenario was to illustrate how people are often constrained to thinking in set ways. We encourage people to look for unusual solutions to challenges, which more often than not, is referred to as ‘thinking outside the box’.

Thinking outside the box is an activity to desperately try to force people to think innovatively. This does not work as well as we are made to believe. There are two major issues with trying to think outside the box.

Firstly, thinking outside the box, still acknowledges the existence of a box. The pure notion of the existence of the box still constraints people’s thinking, it produces a forced way of thinking differently.

Secondly, what if the solution to your challenges actually could be found ‘inside the box’? Would these solutions be overlooked or ignored?

True innovators do not recognise the box, they think without constraints, just like small children do. Everything is possible up to a point where it is proven to be impossible.

The next time you have a brainstorming session, do not start your sessions with remarks like ‘think outside the box’. Just by using this phrase you have just introduced the first constraint to your process.

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