Boxing Inside the Box!

On different occasions and in inspirational speeches I usually hear the advice “Think outside the box”. I have always found this hard to do. The problem with reflecting could be my own problem, however, let’s elucidate the disparity between thinking inside and outside the box and reach a viable conclusion about what’s practical.

Objectively thinking, we need to initially clarify the meaning of the “box”. For me, the meaning in this context is, to some extent, related to our own minds and how we perceive whatever we interact with. Since we were born, we add blocks to our mind/our box daily, and our ‘box’ keeps growing with us day by day. The size and the contents of the box will differ from one to another according to what kind of blocks we are adding and whether we are willing to grow our box.

Nevertheless, we are all similar in the major materials used to build our boxes, materials including our values, beliefs, norms, biases, traditions, concepts, experiences and knowledge. On the other hand, the contents might be different as they evolve through interaction along with our behavior, attitude and perceptions

Advocates of “thinking outside the box” usually claim that the primary stimulus for promoting this idea is to let people think differently and change their scope of viewing aspects from different and new angles. People agree to think outside their boxes to come up with new insights and innovative considerations that they would not achieve thinking inside their box. The question here is: Will individuals be required to rely on their experience and perceptions, or use some other ideas, tactics and thoughts that they have never used in this process? A simple answer here could be that even when people decide to think outside the box, they’re still required to count on their past experiences and personal interpretation to explicate both new and old situations. What do you think?

Additionally, thinking inside the box does not, by any means, refer to keeping our minds limited to what we have previously acquired and not to explore and search for extra knowledge and information that help build our personalities and how we perceive subjects. What runs behind the scenes and what’s written between the lines can’t be observed and understood unless and until we move to untapped territories and discover new fields to add valuable blocks to our own boxes.

What should we do then? We may have two options once we decide to think creatively; firstly is to enlarge the box to accommodate extra different and various stuff, which could be achieved through improving our skills, being exposed to new experiences and most importantly long life learning. Another option is to let some new blocks replace some old ones or to allow the process of some interaction between old and new blocks (boxing each other) to create a unique mixture that form non-traditional ways of thinking, which could be achieved through keeping ourselves well-informed about contemporary updates and relate what we are currently aware of with other fields of knowledge and expertise.

The beauty of this healthy argument is that both concepts of thinking outside or inside the box are looking for the same goal which is actuating people to think and act differently and stimulate their minds and inner feelings so they can eagerly look for their personal improvement and progress to distinctly stand out from the crowd.

We have both choices available for all of us – either to be imprisoned inside our existing boxes and be satisfied with staying in the back rows, or to be keen to expand our boxes and let new stuff in so that we can move to the front lines and lead those who stay behind!

We need to challenge the status quo and allow change to be a perpetual component of our daily activities. Once we look for achieving different results, our inputs should be diversified and promote the notion of generating unique outcomes and think creatively but within the box. Finally, I will keep adding blocks to my box and think within its flexible walls. Will you keep, change or expand your box? Or will you think outside the box? Whatever your answer is, I suggest letting new blocks come inside and allow the new knowledge fight the old knowledge to get better results. In other words, let your blocks box inside the box!

Yasser Bahaa is the Head of Registration and Admission at Emirates College of Technology. He has a broad experience of over 16 years in banking, training, consultancy and organizational excellence. Yasser got his MBA from University of Bradford and is currently pursuing his PhD in Organizational Change and Change Management. He's a program leader at University of Bradford in Dubai coaching and mentoring MBA students and supporting them to run their studies smoothly through guidance and regular sessions. Recently he has been certified as the third Investors in People (IiP) Specialist Adviser in the Arab World.