Thinking inside versus outside the box


Think outside the box – a cliché in business world. If you agree that creation is essentially dual in nature, and that seemingly opposite principles are ‘bound’ to each other by tangible or intangible forces, then it should not be difficult to understand that the conceptual opposites – problem and solution – should also occur in pairs. In highly competitive business environments where heavy-weight words like radical change, groundbreaking technology, breakthrough invention, innovation, etc. are tossed around abundantly because they are required at times, misunderstood some times, and sounds fashionable many a time, it’s difficult to see the sensibility and practicality of ‘thinking inside the box’. This approach looks at the problem as a part of the system that has one or a few ‘wrong notes’; a local-area malfunctioning that requires fixing and that is all. The fixing or the intervention is done from within the system using the very elements and processes of the system. This is an organic approach, and by its very nature thinking-inside-the-box approach gives a sustainable solution to the problem. It is sustainable because the solution is brought about from within the system by using its own constituents without introducing a foreign element. When a totally new element or process is brought in to a system to address a problem, which is what a think- outside-the-box approach would do, the new element dominates the existing system due to the importance attached to it by human intervention, and it tends to change the entire set-up around it in compliance with it’s own nature. Eventually, the whole system is subjected to unnecessary change, when all that is required is a simple, local addressing of the problem area. Yes, sometimes the very foundation requires change. But that is altogether a different situation. The situation in this case is a need for invention. And this requires out-of-the-box thinking because thinking out of the box is essentially a creative and inventive act. But for finding solutions to problems and even for improving a situation, the way is to think inside the box. It would do much good if we know what we are addressing and what we want – whether a problem or a system-change and whether a solution or an invention. The following quote sums it well:

“If you never venture outside the box, you will probably not be creative. But if you never get inside the box, you will certainly be stupid.”
– Christopher Peterson