The “Out of the Box” Myth

In my day-job I am again and again confronted with the wish for „out of the box“ thinking. Oh, how all those managers wish and starve for their subordinates to „think out of the box“ and produce fresh and new ideas.

But!

1) If you do think out of the box and it goes wrong – oh how big and bad is the blame! As a result, the person who dared to think out of the box, will never do so again, since he or she does not want to hear the blame and accusations again.

For an „out of the box“ culture you need a framework of: mistakes are allowed and OK. A framework that exists in the fewest of places, I dare say.

2) Much deeper than the „mistakes are OK culture“ goes the problem that you cannot demand of a „monoculture“ or of people who have done the same stuff for many years, to suddenly think „out of the box“ – they don’t know how to do it. They will only come up with the same ideas that they are familiar with and that they have used for years. They simply don’t know how to think out of the box and how to transcend what they know.
That’s not their fault, how the hell are they supposed to think out of the box if they never learned it, and if it is not really, truly allowed.

The other aspect, monoculture, does the same thing: It limits you. A homogenous group of e.g. Japanese men over fifty will only generate what a homogenous group of Japanese men over fifty can think of. If there is no stimulus of whatever sort, different gender, generation gap, different nationality, etc., there will be no new ideas but again only all those ideas the Japanese men over fifty have produced over the past twenty years already.

There are of course failed diverse teams. That failure generates mostly from being unable to accept each other as equal partners after all. The older person might still think the younger person is „stupid“ because he/she has no experience yet, even if the older person does not say so aloud and is friendly to the younger person. Diverse teams only function and bring a task forward if they truly embrace each others diversity and accept each other as equal human beings – and hell, that’s difficult.

I am amazed as to the stubbornness with which the cry for „out of the box thinking” remains without ensuring the per-requisits: a “failure is OK” culture, enough time and space to generate new ideas, and functioning diverse teams.

But – where does the cry for „out of the box thinking” come from? Pressure from business and society to gain market share, to „stand out“ in order to be noticed in the „sea of choice“ that we face these days.

This goes back to writing or rather to trying to market your books. Everybody wants to stand out from the crowd and be noticed… in doing so, we are all the same = a monoculture.
I don’t know what the solution to this is and, for example, how I shall manage to make my books stand out from the crowd and be noticed…

But there is another (frustrating) aspect that I realized just last week.
Were you/are you aware of the fact that in 1960 there were only 3 billion people on the planet? And now, only 55 years later, there are over 7 billion? See Wikipedia – world population

No wonder the individual doesn’t manage to be heard anymore and does not manage to stand out from the crowd without a ridiculous amount of luck. No wonder everything’s been invented already and every book has already been written…

Well, but that shall not stop me from keeping on writing, since I get huge personal satisfaction out of it! I just started reviewing my second Dome of Souls novel (part 1: Dome Child) yesterday after letting it be for half a year and damn! It’s good! I’ll publish it this autumn or so.

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