Outside and inside the box

Jan 17 2006 by Edward de Bono Print This Article

The strategy of 'thinking outside the box' is well known and the term is in common usage. It seems almost universally understood that 'the box' is restrictive and negative. However, the box can be a very positive thing. It can hold all the attitudes, values, beliefs and rules that help people to behave in a logical and rational way.

If we didn't have these boxes, life would be a random journey or we would be forced to calculate every step rather than depend upon the box's guidance.

The box can be instructive and tells us to regard some things and not others. In this way it determines our perception. It can also provide formed ingredients that we combine to form our perception.

This is all useful and can help us to find ways of viewing a problem or situation.

Whilst acknowledging the usefulness and value of the box, sometimes we want and need to employ the strategy of breaking out of it.

Wanting to break out of the box is the essential first step but this doesn't get us very far on its own.

We have the formal tools of lateral thinking to help us. These can be taught and practised as a skill.

In certain businesses, it is believed that you have to spend years in the industry before you have the right perspectives and values for that 'box'. So you have a catch 22 situation where you need to think out of the box but you must be in the box to provide useful solutions.

In other words, you have to be a novice to learn new tricks but unless you have experience the tricks are of no value.

The solution is remarkably simple: you get an outsider to work with an insider as a team.

Most of our actions are logically related to something else. If we follow the 'logical trail' backwards we sometimes reach a point where our strategy was formed on the basis of an arbitrary assumption, value or perception or what was available to us at the time.

Even when it seems logical that something should be done in a certain way you still might find another way that is equally as logical but even more effective or economical.

Mere adequacy should never stand in the way of a search for something even better.

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About The Author

Edward de Bono
Edward de Bono

Edward de Bono (1933-2021) was a leading authority in the field of creative thinking. Over 35 years after the publication of his first book, "The Mechanism of Mind", the basic principles he outlined are now mainstream thinking in the mathematics of self-organising systems and in the design of neuro-computers. His many subsequent books have been translated into 26 languages.