‘Thinking outside the box’ is a phrase that I hate but sometimes you just have to use the language that others use! My first objection to the actual phrase is that by mentioning a box you have just introduced a box that you now simply cannot ignore. Do you remember the old saying ‘don’t think of a blue elephant’? After reading this you will be hard pushed to forget about it!
My next objection to the concept of a box is that some people decide to implement innovation or at least conduct creative thinking by introducing a separate space (commonly a room or ‘laboratory’) in which to work. So we tell our employees to ‘think outside of the box’, a phrase that we should avoid anyway, and then actually put them inside a box!
Innovation requires changes to behaviour, a rich set of stimuli, freedom to think and experiment and opportunities to interact so we should really be releasing our employees into something much bigger than a box. In fact when we release our employees into this imaginary thinking space they do not wander far from home. It is the idea of freedom that is important, not necessarily the freedom itself.
To aid creative thinking don’t try and create a space with a shape, just let off the brakes and see what happens.