Do you have to know what is inside the box first before you start thinking outside the box?

“Understand what is inside the box before you start thinking outside the box” was a famous quote from one of my professors.  Knowing his approach towards systematic and structured teaching of concepts, that quote has buy-in from many and it is quoted in many events too. I am never sold completely on that concept but at the same time I am not able to explain why so, until recently I was down with viral fever for couple of days at home.

I felt so restless for 2 days at home and struggled to kill time. My daughter suggested me to play games in my home mobile device as a time pass. Though I upgraded my own phone from hard-key Blackberry to touch based phone 2 years ago, I never used my phone / home phone for playing games but on the contrary my daughter uses the touch phone only for playing games 🙂

My daughter’s suggestion sounded as an interesting one. She showed couple of games in the mobile and asked me to try out. One of the games was very promising and I decided to try my hands at it.

My attempts to play the game for first 30 minutes was not very successful as I was bit struggling with basic navigation. My daughter came after 30 minutes, saw my scores, and laughed at me. She asked me what my problem was and why I was not able to progress. I told her, I didn’t understand how to navigate. She immediately responded saying what was the big deal in navigating, this is a touch phone and all you could do was to swipe forward, backward or sides with fingers and why didn’t you try out these options and improve your chances of your survival.

With my first tip from my daughter, I improved a bit and was playing for next 30 minutes. I was almost tired by that time and have put down the mobile. My daughter came again and asked me how come I was so tired. I told her I find it hard to hold this phone with my hands, play the game as my hands were paining. She reverted simply saying, why you were holding it in your hands, just put down on the dining table and play it with your fingers so that you plan forever. With the second tip in hand, I started playing again, improved my scores and killed some more time.

Now linking this back to my blog title I got into a bit of introspection on why I was not able to figure out some of the simple tips suggested by my daughter. As the touch-phone here is the “box”, I have always explored enough into it (inside the box) in a different context (speak, email and browsing) which is different from the one and only usage context of my daughter (playing games). This is one of the reasons for not able think on different possible navigation options in the context of playing games. Secondly I have always used by mobile on move holding in my hands either speaking or typing and I never thought about keeping the mobile on a table and using it. This was the next reason that I was not able to figure out the simple tip of keeping it on the table and play with it.

So the point is, though there is nothing wrong in getting deep inside the box, generally people restrict their exploration to only few core contexts and the too deep exposure to a limited set of core contexts becomes a mental roadblock to look into it from other contexts. On other hand someone who never seen / gone in deep, may easily figure out innovative usage or application in a different context.

In net if you are looking some real innovative solutions give it to someone who doesn’t know what is inside the box to come up with something that is really outside the box.

I know these views are subjected to debate 🙂



One thought on “Do you have to know what is inside the box first before you start thinking outside the box?

  1. Yes I agree, you need to have lateral and systemic thinking to be out of the box thinking. The boundaries can restrict innovation and creativity. You also get many example/ideas/ inspirations from great music exponents

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