Thinking Managers

Edward de Bono of explains why sometimes thinking inside the box can be a good thing.

Boxing Clever

The expression ‘thinking outside the box’ is common and well-understood.

The ‘box’ is seen as repressive and negative. But the box also has positive values. It can guide us to behave in a logical, rational way with values, beliefs, rules and attitudes.

Without the box, life would represent a random path where we would have to think carefully about every step instead of allowing the box to guide us.

The box can instruct us to observe certain things rather than others. Our perception is determined in this way. Also, it can provide various ingredients which we blend to create our perception.

This is useful in helping us to find ways to view problems and situations.

Having acknowledged the value of the box, we sometimes want and need to break out of it.

The desire to break out is the necessary first step but obviously not enough on its own.

We can use the formal tools of lateral thinking to aid us. These can be learnt and used as a skill.

Sometimes in a particular industry it is generally accepted that you need to spend a long time in that line of business before you develop a sufficient insight into the values for that ‘box’.

So you are caught in the trap of needing to think outside the box, but you have to be in it to have the right perspective.

This problem is remarkably simple to solve: an outsider teams up with an insider to act as a sounding board, to challenge the conventions and provide an alternative perspective.

The majority of our actions relate logically to something else. If we trace our steps back we can often reach a place where our action was based on something arbitrary or what was available at the time.

Even the times when the action seems logical, you could find a different way to do things that is just as logical but more economical or effective.

Just because a solution is adequate it shouldn’t prevent you from finding an even better solution.

About the author
Edward de Bono is the world's leading authority in the field of creative thinking and the teaching of thinking as a skill.