Inside the Box Thinking

Over the last few weeks, we have been focusing the shows on different thinking styles, such as out of the box thinking. This week’s topic is a different twist on what we have been recently discussing. People often overlook what I call inside the box thinking and try to stay away from it. On today’s show, we will discuss inside the box thinking and how it can be utilized in any team or organization to boost innovation success.

Inside the Box Thinking

Inside the Box Thinking

Inside the Box Thinking

‘Inside the box thinking’ means to innovate within the constraints defined by the box. It is more generally described as constraint-based innovation. The idea behind it is understanding your constraints and utilizing those constraints to innovate beyond the box. The box can be an organization, government, or even a team. It defines where you are operating here and now. The box can contain inside constraints that you can change. It may also include outside the box constraints that are out of your control. Let’s look at what those constraints can look like:

  • Strategy/Vision – Going into a particular market with a fixed and specific plan.
  • Policies/Procedures – Depending on how these are set up, they can be very constraining.
  • Decision Making – Who makes the decisions? What are the decision-making criteria?
  • Resource Allocation – How does your organization allocate resources (time, people, money, equipment)?

 The Seven Laws of Innovation

Dealing with inside constraints can be a tough task. What I like to call the seven laws of innovation [1], are laws that are critically important for inside the box thinking. Here’s what the seven laws mean:

  • Leadership – Having leaders within an organization that support innovation is critical. An alignment amongst the organization must happen to achieve innovation success.
  • Innovation Culture – Culture is key because an innovation culture encourages people to get out and try new ideas. Likewise, a bad culture can drag an organization down.
  • Resources – It is critical to have resources that are devoted to innovation, and to use your best resources. 
  • Patience – Inside innovation takes time. Stay committed.
  • Innovation Framework Process – You need to have an innovation framework process that is tailored to your organization’s culture.
  • Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) – What is the colossal objective that you are going to pursue? The goal needs a timeline and plan of execution.
  • Execution – Remember that ideas without execution are hobbies. There is no value without execution.

Outside Constraints

These can include competition, outside investments, partners/suppliers, government regulations, etc. I’ve worked in regulated industries, which have given me a good perspective on what this is all about. Outside constraints are typically outside of your control and have been imposed upon you. These don’t always have to be negative and can often be used to your advantage. Let’s look at what these are:

  • Competition – If your competitor is much larger than you, they can invest and fund a lot more than you. You can innovate around the economy of scale by blowing it up. Look at what Uber and Lyft did to the taxi and rental car industry.
  • Outside Investments – Innovation requires capital. It is challenging to do game-changing innovations without capital these days. That being said, there are a ton of different ways to get capital.
  • Partners/Suppliers – If you combine your innovation efforts with partners, you can bring products to market faster. I call this co-innovation, and I have done this a lot throughout my career. A common interest and culture are vital when partnering with someone.
  • Government Regulations – Governments can define regulations that restrict your access to raw materials/different markets. Sometimes you have to meet specific requirements to operate in a particular market.

Constraint-based Innovations

Like I mentioned earlier, people tend to think that good ideas only come from out of the box thinking, which is not true. Inside the box thinking is to constrain the problem but not the potential ways of solving it. Problem statements are critical because they radically increase the quantity and quality of your ideas. Inside the box thinking is also to constrain the atmosphere, but not the team. This is around culture and giving permission and autonomy to innovate. You don’t want to limit the team so that they can’t innovate ideas. Another part of inside the box thinking is restricting the resources but not the ways to utilize them. Constraint-based innovation is hugely powerful in limiting resources and can empower a team to create something novel.

To know more about inside of the box thinking or innovating with inside constraints, listen to this week’s show: Inside the Box Thinking.

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Source:
  1. https://philmckinney.com/the-7-immutable-laws-of-innovation-follow-them-or-risk-the-consequences/

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