Think Inside the Box

I saw a post last week on the Harvard Business Review blog about thinking inside the box.  The title caught my eye, but when reading the post it wasn’t what I had expected.  The post was about how to find ideas for innovation and improvement from within your company.  Great premise and I completely agree.

My thoughts about thinking inside the box have to do with creating and living by standards.  I work for a company with an extremely large creative staff.  At one time the largest creative staff in the world.  So, standards were frowned upon because it was thought to “box in” the creative talent in their designs.

As lean started to be implemented throughout the company, standardized work and product standards were an uphill battle.  After some discussion, we were able to get some standards in place.

The most interesting part has been the reaction from the creative staffs.  After working within the standards, they have said they have become more creative.

Thinking inside the box (or within the standards) has freed them from thinking about certain aspects of product design and allowed them to be creative within the space given to them.

This is a concept that is commonly misunderstood with lean.  Standardized work and product standards are not there to hamper creativity or take the thinking away from the work.  They are there to free up the peoples minds to think about the work in new ways.  Not think about the mundane aspects of the work.

Don’t fight standardized work, use to become more creative.

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Posted on October 17, 2013, in Flip The Thinking, Tools and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Some of the greatest innovations came from situations of constraint not freedom. Thinking outside the framework if very, real limitations also leads to employee frustrations and disengagement.

    Nice job, Matt.

  2. Hi Matt

    I agree with you that often we overlook the need for creativity with a defined set of parameters. Take any product early in its life cycle, by working to improve and stretch its use, you can often gain far more market with far less effort. Also even with trying to create something new, knowing the parameters it must meet in order for the organization to produce it within its existing resources, helps keep the cost of launching a new product down. Many organizations have caused themselves unneeded expense and waste simply because they did not focus on what was their true capability, thus they never looked to take advantage of them, and instead run after doing things they would have better ignored. It is only when you cannot find opportunities within the existing parameters that you should truly start thinking outside the box, but in all honesty that is rarely ever the case.

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