You Gotta Know the Box

Aug 29, 2012

Harvard Business Review reports that thinking outside the box has become ubiquitous in business. 

So much so, the magazine says, that thinking outside the box has become the new box in which everyone is thinking.

I kind of agree with the writer’s premise. But that’s not the primary problem that putting thinking outside the box on a pedestal creates.

The real problem of the outside-the-box mantra is that beginners think that’s all that’s important without first learning about the box. What the box symbolizes. How it became a box. Why the box is the way it is.

The box should not be a whipping boy for so-called innovation. In every situation the box represents order. The way a business operated successfully. The box means rules that worked. Norms that were established over many years and contributed to success.

And the box represents the people who built it through trial and error and made it stand for the opposite of chaos. The box in most cases represents, “How we do things around here.” And that ain’t all bad.

So anyone charged with thinking outside the box will do so much more successfully if she or he first learns the box inside out.

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