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Thinking in New Boxes: A New Paradigm for…
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Thinking in New Boxes: A New Paradigm for Business Creativity

by Luc de Brabandere

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In 2000, I was in grad school at Texas A&M and got an email from the XO of the Navy ROTC unit we were administratively attached to: "Your boss is in town tonight...might want to think about going." The "boss" he was referring to was Rear Admiral Lou Smith, Commander of Naval Facilities Engineering Command and Chief of the Civil Engineer Corps (CEC), who was talking that night at the local Society of American Military Engineers. So, my two CEC cohorts also in grad school and I uniformed up and went. I'd been on the receiving end of many of RADM Smith's talks. He was a dynamic, engaging, funny Navy leader, and I'd heard most of what he was saying recently, so the brain was wandering trying to solve some Navier-Stokes thing when I heard him say, "...Thinking outside the box. I hate that phrase!" I sat up, thinking, "I like that phrase...why don't you like it?" Of course he read my mind, and continued, "Let me tell you why I hate it... I'm in DC sitting at a table with a bunch of admirals, and they're whining about not having enough funds and they don't know what to do to get more. I say, 'Let's go rob some banks!' For whatever reason some of them took me seriously and complained that we couldn't do that, to which I said, 'Why not? We have all the guns.' So you see," and he waggled a finger at the crowd, "there is a box!"

That stuck with me, obviously, and when I came across this book, I thought "Finally! Someone gets it!" Except...Messrs. de Brabandere and Iny kind of didn't. Oh, they thought they did, uh...the book?, obviously, but ...

A lot of time explaining our resistances to thinking in new boxes, from failure to categorize information correctly (the authors presume, of course, that there must be a "correct" way...) to so-called "Eureka" moments. They said Eureka moments can entail product or process innovations, like Apple's invention of the iPhone or Toyota's postwar development of its formidable, industry-challenging "lean" manufacturing strategies.
Huh? They clearly do not understand "Eureka"... confusing it with "necessity" (Toyota - limited real estate for storing pseudo-infinite amounts of materials like the American manufacturers) and "how about this?" (Apple). Isaac Asimov said The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but 'That's funny...'
(In case some fan thinks I'm being picky, the authors' examples throughout this book are just as off.) Anyway, here is their "powerful" five-step approach to thinking in new boxes:
1. Doubt Everything
2. Probe the Possible
3. Diverge
4. Converge
5. Reevaluate Relentlessly

"Doubt Everything"??- WTH? Okay, the suggestion to question what you think you know makes great sense (and is nothing new). But to advocate doubting everything is plain absurd and a time waster - selectively doubt and question what needs it, but not everything. Worse than that, a primary example used to drive this home was Dick Fosbury's innovative high jump technique and the doubt that others had until he won gold. Interesting example, but flawed. Fosbury didn't doubt. Well, he did doubt that he could get any higher the traditional way. The authors say themselves in telling the story that Fosbury forced himself to experiment with different techniques. Its a stretch to confuse persistence with "doubting everything".

The rest are just rehashes of the obvious, done elsewhere better. But as is to be expected, they do have few white board fodder strewed throughout.

Here's the bottom line (my bottom line...not quite what the authors are trying to sell): there is always a box...change up how you try to move from the one you're in to another...and never rely on one set of "powerful" tools...there's a big universe out there...keep looking.

( )
  Razinha | May 23, 2017 |
The basic concept of this book is to explain how to be creative. It describes a mechanistic way of generating new ways of looking at things and coming up with new ideas. It involves divergence and convergence and scenario building. It was interesting but repetitve. ( )
  GlennBell | Mar 2, 2015 |
When we start working on Innovative Projects we used to promote "Thinking out of the Box" Technic's !
However - changing Paradigm and creating new methodology and new boxes is really amazing !
BCG's comments are absolutely relevant - When people think in new boxes, they learn how to ask the right questions in order to open up the most promising doors to creativity, innovation, and opportunity.
This is basically what we forgot and therefore we missed the final target => Introduce new thinking paradigms and keep moving to the next available Boxes ...
Excellent book - no doubt ;()

Sunday, 5th Oct 2014 ( )
  Fouad_Bendris | Oct 5, 2014 |
"Thinking in new boxes" presents a basic introduction to creativity techniques and scenario planning. There isn't any new or revolutionary stuff in the books, the "new" is to be read in the same manner as "white & fresh" in detergent ads, a repackaging of old stuff in new boxes by consultants of the Boston Consulting Group (including recycling quotes from their McKinsey colleagues). This is a book for people who need to be told "to reevaluate relentlessly" and "to doubt everything". Creativity techniques for the NIH crowd. ( )
  jcbrunner | May 31, 2014 |
Your company makes buggy whips. It has always made buggy whips. Sales have been flat for the past several quarters. As CEO, what, if anything, are you going to do about it?

First of all, doubt everything about your company (but not to the point of paralysis). Put everything about your company, and your view of the market, under the microscope. Don't assume that anything about your company will stay the same in the future. Next, you need to look around and consider your options. It's
normal to keep your minds in the box labeled "buggy whips" (thinking that the only allowable options are those that involve buggy whips). Get that thought out of your head right now.

Set up an off-site meeting of at least half a day with your senior management, or your entire company, if it is small enough, to brainstorm ideas for the future of your company. As a bit of mental exercise, describe your company's product without using the five most obvious words. Quantity of ideas is more important than quality. Do not denigrate any idea, no matter how strange it sounds. With a little tweaking, what sounds like a terrible idea could become your company's economic lifesaver.

A later session, preferably with a different group of people, is dedicated to converging those many ideas into something more manageable. Now you can cross out the ideas that are just not feasible for your company, and combine similar ideas. Get down to a small number (three or four) new ideas or concepts or potential new products that your company can put into practice; then, do it. No idea will work forever, so constantly re-evaluate your new ideas, and don't be afraid to replace an old idea with a new one.

This may seem like a rather dry and boring concept, but the authors do a very good job at making it not so dry and boring. It's interesting, and it has a lot to say to companies of any size. ( )
  plappen | Oct 30, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0812992954, Hardcover)

When BIC, manufacturer of disposable ballpoint pens, wanted to grow, it looked for an idea beyond introducing new sizes and ink colors. Someone suggested lighters.
 
LIGHTERS?
 
With an idea that seemed crazy at first, that bright executive, instead of seeing BIC as a pen company—a business in the PEN “box”—figured out that there was growth to be found in the DISPOSABLE “box.” And he was right. Now there are disposable BIC lighters, razors, even phones. The company opened its door to a host of opportunities.
 
IT INVENTED A NEW BOX.
 
Your business can, too. And simply thinking “out of the box” is not the answer. True ingenuity needs structure, hard analysis, and bold brainstorming. It needs to start
 
THINKING IN NEW BOXES
 
—a revolutionary process for sustainable creativity from two strategic innovation experts from The Boston Consulting Group (BCG).
 
To make sense of the world, we all rely on assumptions, on models—on what Luc de Brabandere and Alan Iny call “boxes.” If we are unaware of our boxes, they can blind us to risks and opportunities.
 
This innovative book challenges everything you thought you knew about business creativity by breaking creativity down into five steps:
 
Doubt everything. Challenge your current perspectives.
• Probe the possible. Explore options around you.
• Diverge. Generate many new and exciting ideas, even if they seem absurd.
• Converge. Evaluate and select the ideas that will drive breakthrough results.
Reevaluate. Relentlessly. No idea is a good idea forever. And did we mention Reevaluate? Relentlessly.
 
Creativity is paramount if you are to thrive in a time of accelerating change. Replete with practical and potent creativity tools, and featuring fascinating case studies from BIC to Ford to Trader Joe’s, Thinking in New Boxes will help you and your company overcome missed opportunities and stay ahead of the curve.
 
This book isn’t a simpleminded checklist. This is Thinking in New Boxes.
 
And it will be fun. (We promise.)
 
Advance praise for Thinking in New Boxes
 
Thinking in New Boxes is a five-step guide that leverages the authors’ deep understanding of human nature to enable readers to overcome their limitations and both imagine and create their own futures. This book is a must-read for people living and working in today’s competitive environment.”—Ray O. Johnson, Ph.D., chief technology officer, Lockheed Martin
 
Thinking In New Boxes discusses what I believe to be one of the fundamental shifts all companies/brands need to be thinking about: how to think creatively, in order to innovate and differentiate our brands. We need to thrive and lead in a world of accelerating change and this book challenges us to even greater creativity in our thinking. One of the best business books I’ve read in a long time.”—Jennifer Fox, CEO, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts
 
“As impressive as teaching new tricks to old dogs, Thinking in New Boxes is both inspirational and practical—a comprehensive,  step-by-step guide to sharpening one’s wits in order to harness creativity in the workplace.”—Peter Gelb, general manager, Metropolitan Opera

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:24 -0400)

Outlines a new model of practical creativity that challenges business professionals to evaluate customers, goals, and companies in engaging alternative ways, explaining how to develop strategies for effective and adaptive business environments.

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