After reading Dan Heath & Chip Heath’s arcticle Get Back in the Box– How constraints can free your team’s thinking in Fast Company, I’ve been pondering how important (and simply helpful) it is to have something real to hang our imaginations on when creating a new space, product or service. Many writing classes remind students to engage sense imagery in order to involve readers and create a connection between the story and the reader who only knows what is revealed one sentence at a time. In the same way, a common ground of images and references gives designers, project managers and staff some grounding as they venture into new territory. The idea of “thinking outside of the box” cannot be productive if it means operating in a vacuum. We take our experiences, senses, individual tastes and connections with us into every situation–every project. The article suggests that a project requiring innovation while still providing some constraints as “a crystal-clear box.” Goodbye to blank slate approaches. The phrase “crystal-clear box” alone conjures an idea of structure without visual constraint. I see the “crystal-clear box” being constructed by strong, clarifying direction that allows designers and project staff the ability to project new ideas and daring thoughts onto project without missing the mark. The next time we’re asked to create an “innovative program” or to be “forward thinking” or to “be change agents” lets ask for a semblance of a “crystal-clear box” first. And let’s also be mindful to offer up those same crystal-clear boxes to help clarify what we’re asking for.
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