What does it mean to do away with the box completely?

In doing creativity training (a popular paradox in the world of trainers) there was an exercise that included having participants list all of the “birds” they could think of.  Then the facilitator would go around the group and write the birds from these lists on the board. At first all of the birds mentioned were certifiable Audubon candidates. Then someone would mention Big Bird and everyone would giggle.

Larry Bird and Lady Bird would follow. 777s and Superman were also popular. Although the instant someone mentioned Superman, another participant would inevitably say, “Superman isn’t a bird.” That would bring up the question of whether anything that flies should be on the list.

At that point some participants started to very specifically define the parameters of their “bird box.” By the time someone got around to mentioning giving someone “the bird,” the controversy would be full blown. But even if everyone eventually agreed to include all of these as birds, if someone tried to get “gullible” on the list, that’s when most participants retreated inside their box and pulled the lid firmly shut, leaving the “gullible” participant without a box to call their own.

To me, doing away with the box completely means to push or break through the parameters of traditional solutions to come up with new ways to get things done. It’s not a process or an event, it’s a way of thinking and talking about options and possibilities. It’s about agility and adaptability. It’s about taking hold of uncertainty and turning it into competitive advantage.

Of course not every assignment requires doing away with box completely. But asking questions and being open to the occasional big hairy audacious goal (BHAG) is often what is needed to jump start innovation.

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Organizational development and performance consulting encompasses a multitude of topics.  My focus is on three interrelated sets of behaviors: helping people relate, lead, and innovate.