Thinking Inside the Box

October 19, 2017

Creative Thinking Blog Post

I love ideas. More specifically, I enjoy the process of finding new answers, challenging status quo thinking and connecting the unconnected. I admire the disruptors, the inventors and the risk takers.

So, it is probably no surprise that for many years I embraced the popular ideal of thinking outside the box. Or at least the notion of tossing aside conventional thinking and widely accepted rules to cultivate creativity. However, more recently, I’ve found we should actually be stepping inside these figurative boxes.

In his 2013 TED Talk, artist Phil Hansen shared a personal story of finding his purpose and creativity through inside the box thinking. In art school, Hansen began experiencing hand tremors making it near impossible to control his design. After struggling to identify as something other than an artist, he chose to start designing again. Overwhelmed with the choices before him, he began challenging himself to design within a very tight framework. By depriving himself of options, his creativity flourished.

In one of my earlier blog posts, I wrote about “both/and” leaders. Leaders, like Blake Mycoskie and Hamdi Ulukaya, who forced innovation by committing to bold “both/and” ideas. They chose strict parameters: Make money and give back. Take care of your employees without sacrificing market share or quality.

These are our future leaders. The ones who believe in “both/and” thinking. Those who are building smaller boxes and stepping inside them. The results are evident: new products, new categories and new business models. So, the next time you feel stuck or someone asks you to find an out-of-the-box solution, consider thinking inside the box.




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Karen Bailey is a brand purpose consultant and specializes in helping companies define their purpose and align their business around it. In 2017, she launched the blog, Purpose Greater Than Profit, to start a meaningful conversation about the increasingly important role of brand purpose, purposeful leadership and a better way of doing business.


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