On a bright afternoon in one of the beach resorts of Mombasa, the creative company is holding a major retreat to map on the way forward with its investors, staff and others. The founder stands for the keynote speech in which he urges all involved to start thinking in the box. “Stop your wayward thoughts and think in the box for our company to be more creative”
I can hear you whisper.. “Is he nuts?”
We have seen those “out of the box types” that play ping pong in at work, work in technicolour offices, wear denims and interesting t-shirts. A lot of us imagine creativity is radical, which can be far from accurate or proper. So are we saying that out of the box thinking especially while seated on brightly coloured bean bag chairs is bad? Yes and No.
Out of the box thinking can be unstructured, random , radically different , time consuming and sometimes veer off the plan. Sometimes, it isn’t the best for best for business especially when we need the shortest path to creativity. Welcome to Thinking in the Box.
Systematic Inventive Thinking can foster creativity in an organisation. Rather than brainstorming, it narrows down to that one aspect/process/product/component that needs innovation and focuses on it. Systematic Inventive Thinking involves Subtraction, Task Unification, Multiplication, Division.
How about removing one aspect of the product or process? Sometimes removing a critical component results in an entirely new product. Did you ever imagine the laptop without the keyboard? A tablet? Some other results of subtractive thinking include lenses (spectacles without the frame) and ATM (banking without the teller).
This involves bringing tasks or components together and unifying them into one new innovation. Currently, MPESA is doing that very well by connecting your mobile to the banks and enabling payment of bills, banking, buying airtime, access loans and money transfer. By unifying the printer, copier and scanner into one device the market for those individual products has been completely reshaped the market for the individual products.
Sometimes, a component is copied and then changed in ways that may seem unnecessary but results in a new product or process that is an improvement on the previous. When Gillette tried adding more blades to the shaver, it was a massive improvement on single blade shavers.
This occurs when you break down parts of a product or process. You can do this by rearranging the location or order of appearance, physically break them to parts or create smaller replicas of the whole. For example airlines have broken the process by making it possible to check yourself in and print your boarding pass. However, the best example of division still remains the remote control.
Whatever the industry, innovation gives an advantage. For us in the creative industry, it can make a difference between life and death (of the business) In the quest to be more innovative, organizations need to find the shortest route there and in most cases that innovation is in the box.
Look at the smart phone for instance, currently no one is trying to make a new kind of smart phone. The innovation is mostly the result of “in the box” thinking. Every new model adds 2-3 features over the previous one; better camera, sharper screen, longer lasting battery and so on.
This is not to totally dismiss the radical thinkers. They play an important role in the creative process and will continue to do so.
Like they say out there, sometimes you need to “Ingia Box” (get in the box).
Written by Kiama Muriithi