Try Thinking in New Boxes

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Several weeks ago, Alan Ivy, who co-authored with Luc De Brabandere, “Thinking in New Boxes: A New Paradigm for Business Creativity”,  heard that I was launching a new Vistage workshop “Get Creative to General Growth Innovations” and shared a pre-publication issue (It will be released mid-September).

These Boston Consulting Group authors change the metaphor for Creativity/Innovation from “thinking out of the box” to “thinking in new boxes”. This creates an important shift in how people reframe an argument: rather than creating an alternative to current thinking, they focus on the fact that there are several alternative perspectives; our goal is to explore them and arrive at the one(s) that make the most sense. If you believe there many be alternative universes out there, you will be comfortable with this approach.

Most useful is their last section, where they walk through the process of scenario planning for UNIFE – the association of the European rail industry which, during 2008-2009, had to address the extent to which the financial crisis and subsequent recession put unprecedented stress of every business. Governments were changing insurance companies were failing and financial service firms were in jeopardy. Trade patterns were changing, regulations were tightening, consumer spending became stagnant. So it needed to explore how all these would affect their company now and in the future, and creatively arrive at a plan that offered some security and certainty.

There are five steps in the process to creating new boxes for a new reality:

  1. Doubt everything – Here you brainstorm and challenge every assumption of what might take
  2. Probe the possible. Identify relevant megatrends (beyond the industry (demographic, economic), within the industry – regulators, customers, competitors), and within each company (how the business actually runs). and “wildcards” (e.g., terrorism, share oil discovery), that could affect which trends are more likely to occur
  3. Diverge –  Develop as many possible variables to consider
  4. Converge – Develop hypotheses for how they may combine to create new realities – and then focus on the most likely ones.
  5. Reevaluate relentlessly – Don’t get complacent. Even after you think you have the most likely new “box”, review it periodically as the world does change!

If leading your company to be more creative and innovative is one of your priorities – I highly recommend reading this book. Then, share with us how you liked the book and the model!

In the new workshop that I’m launching this month “Get Creative to Generate Growth Innovations”, which essentially is part one of a two part process (the second being “Now Execute the Innovative Solutions”), I will reference your work.  Who knows, maybe there will be opportunities to work together?!  Indeed, as we’re both in New York City, maybe we should get together and see where the sparks take us!