We’ve all heard it a thousand times.
Think outside the box. It’s a metaphor that seems to have worked for hundreds of creative geniuses in the past. But could thinking outside the box actually be wrong? According to Harry and Christine Clifford Beckwith, authors of You, Inc., thinking outside of the box can greatly hinder your creativity.
Here’s one chapter from the Beckwith’s book about thinking outside the box:
“Your box – you way of thinking, working, and living – has worked for you. It’s the box in which you were born, a product of the DNA with which you were encoded. You can change your box about as easily as you can alter the shape of your head.
You are methodical or mercurial; you are lateral or linear; you tend to be inward, or outward. But from birth, you are who you are. It’s a pretty good box. Most important, it is yours 镃 the box in which you have operated forever.
Don’t try to think outside your box; it’s too hard. Instead, grow it.
For a wonderful inspiration and example, consider the story of singer Paul Simon.
Simon wrote some of our previous century’s classic songs, including an album that became the background music for an entire generation: Bookends. Millions bought it, and millions more heard its songs as the background music to the movie classic The Graduate.
Simon flourished inside his box. His box was filled with the culture of rebellious 1960s America, torn between chasing California girls on the beach on one hand and protesting the Vietnam War on the other.
Simon flourished inside his box – and then he didn’t. He stayed there, and the box that had helped him produce classics started producing fluff… Simon’s box closed in on him.
Simon solved it, but not by changing his thinking. He changed his box by bringing new things into it. To find them he ventured a world away; he flew to Africa. There, his box changed from what he felt and saw. As he wrote in one sone, he sang ‘angels in the architecture, spinning in infinity.’
Africa and its images and sounds startled, moved, and overwhelmed Simon. With his head stirring with these new influences, and inspired by the African group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, he wrote 'You Can Call Me Al’ and one of music’s truly outside–the–box creations, the album Graceland.
Simon didn’t think outside his box; few people can. Simon grew his box. He brought into it new things, studied different culture, and listened to African music rather than his own.
From that he transformed himself, and flourished.
To become more creative – always a good idea – don’t try to think outside your box. Instead, grow it. Bring new things in.
If you read Vanity Fair [magazine], read In–Fisherman. If you read Tattoo, pick up Architectural Digest. If you read People, scan The New Yorker. If you attend the theatre, catch a NASCAR race…
Tinker with your box. Buy an orange sport coat and a pair of red suede shoes; see what changes.
Grow a bigger box.”
To be honest, I could not have said it any better.