“You’ll never have to think outside of a box that isn’t there in the first place.”
– Eric Purcell
“Think outside the box.”
A cliché phrase in the business world that originated in the early 1970’s. Why is it so common? Because innovation lies outside of the box. A competitive advantage or differentiator can make the difference between knocking it out of the park or bankruptcy. We live in a highly competitive world where we spend a lot of time trying to keep up and one step ahead of the fierce competition. Without innovation, the threat is real – possible death.
We get this part. But have we ever stopped to consider what the infamous, imaginary “box” really is and why we have to encourage ourselves to think outside of it?
The box is fear.
We come into this world connected and with no fear. As we go through experiences and hear things like “you cannot do that,” “that will never happen” or “that would be too risky” we start to shrink. We step into an imaginary box to protect ourselves from the big bad world. We separate.
Don’t get me wrong – we need some response awareness of fear. If we come across a bear one day while we are hiking or some other life threatening situation we need our “fight or flight” response to kick in.
But overall, we live too much in fear. Too much in scarcity. Too much in separateness. We are all in our own boxes. We find comfort when our box is identical to everyone else’s box because we are followers and like sameness. When we are tucked safely in our box that looks like everyone else’s we protect ourselves from judgment or ridicule.
However, in striving for sameness we lose our unique gifts of creativity. We lose innovation.
Imagine if everyone felt comfortable and confident expressing their most wild and crazy ideas in your meetings. One of these ideas might be the magic bullet that sky rockets your company or team to the next level.
This type of culture is highly encouraged in some industries like high tech, where innovation is paramount. Typically, there is an environment of trust. One in which off the wall ideas and questions are encouraged and applauded, rather than being judged. Other traditional industries suffer because they lack a culture that supports innovation. I have even seen companies that have a corporate value of innovation hanging on the wall, but the value has not made it into the hearts of their employees because the reality is the culture does not support the value.
Every decision, every response, every choice we make comes from only two forms – fear based or heart based. Fear based responses are the ones that have over time developed our imaginary box. Each time we make a fear based decision we shrink further into our box.
Heart based decisions are made from a place of trust or gut instinct. Our head (ego) may try to shrink us down by telling us “it’s not possible” or “we tried that already and it did not work.” But if we take a moment and connect to what our heart says, we expand; our box begins to disappear; we connect with ourselves and others; we find “the zone” and we rock the world.
So I say – Burn the stupid box!
Be courageous – let fear go, listen to your heart and trust in its guidance. Then speak your truth for there lies the true innovation that will take you, your team or your company to the next level.
Exceptional leaders live outside the box!