Don’t trust someone who tells you to “think outside the box”


How many times have you heard the words “We need to think outside the box” and internally rolled your eyes? I personally need to stifle a groan and work hard at not snorting derisively, because it’s usually an aged corporate square that said it.

Yes folks, the sad truth is that the people who offer you these words of advice are the very same people who are creating the proverbial box that they want you to think outside of. What they should be saying is, “I am as clichéd as YOLO”.

First up, this whole box phenomenon is kind of old school (and we don’t mean the Sailor Jerry “Old School is cool” kind, either). The concept of there being a defined set of rules that must govern business, marketing and branding is outdated, entirely. It comes from an age when advertising and marketing in themselves were a new concept. It was necessary for the evolution of marketing that a defined set of rules be drawn up, just as it was equally necessary for them to be broken – thus the proverbial thinking outside of the box.

So, what was this box all about? It had to do with following a defined formula for business and marketing. There were certain concepts that worked and they were used to great effect. They fitted in with the acceptable and “normal” social constructs and were effective because they drew on truths based on acceptable society. This was the target market. Anyone hoping to make a sale had to appeal to them, and the people in turn were more than happy to be told what they wanted.

But the thing is, the idea of the box is pretty much as relevant today as the telegram.

We have moved on. Anyone who is still citing the box idea is from a bygone era. They may be trying to break free from what they perceive to be the norm, but for the most part they are still experiencing a very outdated form of normal.

The buying population today is vast, it is diverse and it is global. It is made up of real people, not 1970’s sitcom families, and these people demand an experience in everything they do, every service they hire and every purchase they make that reflects their independence and their preferences.

We are not a society of people waiting to be removed from our box. For most of us there is no box, the box is something our grandmothers climbed out of and we have never looked back.

So, if you find yourself dealing with a supposed “creative” who talks to you about thinking outside of the box you should ask yourself this question: “What is his box?” Because the answer will tell you about the limitations he is setting for both himself, and you. The very fact that he mentioned it shows you that he is still operating within inherited limitations and preconceptions.

What if the answer is inside your box?


We don’t see the box anymore. What we do see is great design, great concepts, and innovate ideas. We understand about problem solving – and that any innovation must solve a problem and speak to the demographic it was designed for. It has to be a part of their world and make it better. It must inspire you or it’s not going to inspire them. We can’t sell with our eyes closed anymore.


If it turns out that the solve that is the most advantageous and appealing to the real live people who need it is actually inside this magic “box” – that’s okay. Sometimes the supposed “rules” that govern design, product development and marketing are there for a reason. Because they work.


Schrodinger’s Box

Until there is a box, you can be neither inside or outside of it.

We call on you to recycle the box. Let it be the biodegradable coffin that clichés are buried in.

Instead let’s focus on real solutions, real ideas and real thinking – done by people who are concerned with tangible results and meaningful relationships with the world around you.


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