Thinking in Boxes is not the Problem

A few weeks ago, I went to a presentation in which the speaker made a good case for using a term other than “elevator pitch.”

Now, I’m reading a book that tells us why we should be “thinking in new boxes” instead of “outside the box.” Why doesn’t the term “thinking outside the box” work? Well, because…

You can’t think or make decisions, let alone create new ideas (or recognize a good idea when you see one), without using a range of mental models to simplify things.

Thinking in New Boxes, Luc De Brabandere and Alan Iny

The thing is, we need boxes or mental models. So it’s not thinking inside boxes that corrodes creative thinking abilities, it’s the boxes that we use. To generate new ideas, you need to create a new mindset. Start by recognizing your current boxes and then begin doubting and investigating them.

Here’s an example. Recently, I have seen people using old mental models in order to have financial stability in their lives. The people in question are freelancers who are not happy with the monetary ups and downs of the freelance life. Their solution is to give up freelancing for a “real job” because the “real job” will give them the stability they seek.

When I hear this, I tell them about people I know who had “stable” jobs one day and were unemployed the next. Some get my point, others don’t.

The ones who don’t are tied to their old mental model that says that working for a company equals stability. But these days, forces that don’t even seem to have a direct impact on your company can lead to layoffs. And the result can be much more devastating than doing the financial planning that freelancers need to do. That’s because freelancers know they have to stay on their toes, but employees sitting in a nice, cushy place with a job that they think is safe tend not to make provisions for when that job is gone. How secure is that?

These freelancers need to create a new mindset or box. Maybe one that recognizes that one has to create their own financial stability instead of depending on companies to do it for them. Maybe one that recognizes that:

…the world is demonstrably more volatile, with more uncertainty and more possibilities.

Thinking in New Boxes, Luc De Brabandere and Alan Iny

And maybe if these freelancers are relying on companies to get the business that creates work for them, maybe their new box  should embrace taking total control and generating their own customer base. And when one starts thinking this way, the possibilities are endless.