Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Thinking in New Boxes

It is a cliche to tell or be told "think outside the box"  The authors of this book, Luc De Brabandere and Alan Iny take a different approach.  No matter how hard you try you think in boxes.  It is almost by definition impossible to truly think outside the box, as everyone of us in effect operates from a box of personal limitations.  BUT you can think in new boxes.   They suggest a formula that does force you to stretch your view of the world outside your normal limitations.  In the end their method is to gently force your mind to create new solutions which are really just re-arranging details already existing in our world. 

Their systems starts with doubt.  The most basic things need to be examined.  What seemed like science fiction yesterday may be reality tomorrow (or may be already). Stage two moves to determining possibilities and setting questions.  Stage three they call Divergence which just means developing new ideas or boxes.  The fourth sage is convergence where the new boxes are analyzed and decisions made.  Stage 5 is the relentless re-evaluation as authors acknowledge the new boxes you created will sooner or later need to be replaced.

Of course the procedures are only part of what is needed.  You also need the right people (which might include a facilitator) and the right atmosphere. Let no one bow to hierarchy.  Linus Pauling is quoted, "The way to get good ideas is to get lots of ideas and throw the bad ones away."   A few useful suggestions are made, while acknowledging that circumstances vary a lot.  Below is one example of a mind opener.

Paraphrasing an attention getting quiz to help get the ball rolling.  If you put 20 volumes of an encyclopedia  on a shelf, that each volume measures  2 " wide with a cover on both front and back of 1/4" each, what distance would a worm travel eating its way from page one of the first volume to the last page of the the 20th volume?  The simple calculation is 50" and some more sophisticated people figure they could eliminate the front cover of the first volume and the back  cover of the last volume to arrive at the figure of 49 1/2 inches.  However the correct number is 45 1/4 inches.  Page 1 of the first volume starts at the right hand side of the text and the last page of the final volume is on the left hand side.  You might have thought you were given a simple arithmetic test, but the authors want the participants to expand their thinking.

There are plenty of examples from the past and some more recent.  One of the keys is to analyze what business you are really in.  The Bic pen people at first thought they were in the pen business, but someone suggested they were really in the disposable business and they went on to add profits from disposable lighters and disposable razor blades.  Another example that caught my attention was about the Metropolitan Opera who thought they needed to expand their revenues at first by either raising prices or expanding the number of seats.  Instead they multiplied their audience exponentially by offering simulcasts of their live productions literally around the world.  Another example used is about the Fosbury flop where an athlete had reached his limit for high jumping, but looked for another way and discovered that jumping backwards could improve the results.  There are many examples of new box thinking readers may identify with or see for the first time.

To find out the latest thinking of the authors visit their website:  http://thinkinginnewboxes.com/

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