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Is ‘Thinking Out of the Box’ the Right Approach to Innovation?

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  • October 25, 2021
Is ‘Thinking Out of the Box’ the Right Approach to Innovation?

Innovation and creativity are crucial to every organisation. The term ‘thinking outside the box’ has become a cliché and used to describe and stimulate avant-garde thinking. Surely, if there is a box to consider, this can only be an inhibitor! Innovation and creativity flow when it is understood that there is no box!

The foundation of innovation is problem-solving or survival. Innovation is like evolution, where only the strongest will survive. For many years the terms ‘think outside the box’ was used to stimulate teams to find solutions and come up with new ideas. In fact, back in the 1970s and 1980s this term became synonymous with “have a nice day.”

In the early 1970s, J.P Guilford, discussed this approach in a research article. Guilford’s article, “Thinking Outside the Box: A Misguided Idea,” was published in Psychology Today. An expert in the field of innovation, Drew Boyd, disputed Guilford’s theory. The puzzle Guilford described was one with nine dots requiring the subjects to connect all the dots by using just four lines, drawn without lifting the pencil from the paper. This puzzle has been used in many team-building exercises over the years and can only be achieved by drawing the lines beyond the dots to achieve the objective.

It’s also interesting to view this from a psychological perspective, as most people feel hampered by an illusion of boundaries limiting their choices when trying this puzzle, even those able to complete the task. Today, there has been so much innovation and evolution, that this aging metaphor is still sometimes used to try to initiate creative thinking in teams. But, when asked to ‘think outside the box, generally an involuntary, self-limiting mind-trap prevents people from being able to see what really may be possible. Rather develop the best ideas, by making a critical new assumption: There is no box!

“At Property.CoZa our vision avoided the box from the start!” says Sandy Walsh, MD Property.CoZa South Africa, “We have a tried and tested business model that has proven itself in the real estate market and been successful for over 12 years. As part of our initial vision, we have designed and developed our own advanced IT systems and SEO-driven website, and we continue to innovate. Property.CoZa has a national footprint of 32 franchises and envision further growth in the coming year as more entrepreneurs consider the many benefits of their franchise offerings.

Innovation and evolution are in essence survival, a fundamental human instinct. View the box using a ‘flight-or-fight’ response. What do you want? Make a choice and avoid the box to achieve success! “Where necessary, we have updated our business model to meet changes in the real estate market, and our goal has always been to succeed. We never had to worry about a box!” says Walsh.

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