http://www.engineeringnews.co.za
  SEARCH
Login
R/€ = 13.07Change: 0.07
R/$ = 11.79Change: -0.05
Au 1201.45 $/ozChange: -0.21
Pt 1183.50 $/ozChange: 5.00
 
 
Note: Search is limited to the most recent 250 articles. Set date range to access earlier articles.
Where? With... When?








Start
 
End
 
 
And must exclude these words...
Close Main Search
Close Main Login
My Profile News Alerts Newsletters Logout Close Main Profile
 
Agriculture   Automotive   Chemicals   Competition Policy   Construction   Defence   Economy   Electricity   Energy   Environment   ICT   Metals   Mining   Science and Technology   Services   Trade   Transport & Logistics   Water  
What's On Press Office Tenders Suppliers Directory Research Jobs Announcements Letters Contact Us
 
 
 
RSS Feed
Article   Comments   Other News   Research   Magazine  
 
 
Feb 24, 2012

Thinking outside the box(es)

Back
Cement|Hatch|Systems|Systems|Drilling|Power
Cement|Hatch|Systems|Systems|Drilling|Power
cement-company|hatch|systems-company|systems|drilling|power
© Reuse this



In business circles, one often hears people saying: “Think outside the box.” This is thrown around quite glibly. Part of the work that I do is to think outside the box. I go to companies, large and small, and conduct strategy and planning sessions to get people to move outside their boxes. So, over the years, I have had to think about the concept quite a bit.

A conclusion that I have come to is that the term ‘think outside the box’ is incorrect. It should be ‘to think outside the boxes’. Note that the plural is very important. Have a look at the diagram. All of us have multiple boxes embedded in our brains. We can never get outside all our boxes at any time, and even trying to move out of some of them is hard work.

One can be inside the red box, which is a compartment of ‘boxified’ thinking, and, after some mental gymnastics, one can manage to get out of that box, only to find that one is still inside the yellow box. With some more mental agility, you get out of that box, only to find that you are still inside the green box. But these three boxes are each inside one another and they represent an ever-expanding thinking pattern emanating from one starting point.
However, there are also intersecting and overlapping boxes that represent other constraints on our thinking, and range of actions. For example, one such box can be religion. Christians, Jews and Muslims will have different attitudes to what one can do on different days of the week. Friday, Saturday and Sunday have different meanings for different groups.

There are also the male and female boxes. Men will have different mental confines to women’s. Men may have no problem working alone on the midnight shift, but women may see it differently.

We also all have mental boxes stemming from our family background and upbringing, and also from the work we have done for years, or from various companies for which we have worked in the past.

Many of these boxes intersect and overlap. So, at some point, a Jewish man may be outside his male box but still be inside his Jewish box. A Muslim woman may get out of her Muslim box but still be inside her female box. Both may still be inside mental boxes that are there because they have worked indoors all their lives, and have never been in an underground mine, so asking them to come up with a new rock drilling technique will be inherently bounded by their life experience.

I recall once working with Army officers in designing new armoured fighting vehicles. They were all talking about larger guns and more armour on the front and sides. Then, in our third meeting, we brought in two Air Force helicopter pilots. They were the most junior and sat there in their blue uniforms, looking most uncomfortable. After a while, the one pilot said: “We would fly over the top and shoot down through the tank commander’s hatch cover – it is the thinnest metal.” I am not imply- ing that the Army officers would not have considered air power; they are smart fellows, but the tone of the discussion then changed. A ‘box’ had been breached.

When space scientists imagine looking for life on other planets, they have to get outside boxes that define life on earth. Maybe life on other planets does not necessarily need oxygen, so one does not necessarily have to find extraterrestrial oxygen to support life. For years, scien- tists have searched for extreme life forms on earth . . . and found many. Life has been found in freezing-cold conditions and in boiling-hot conditions, both of which were earlier thought to be too extreme to support life. Life has been found at the bottom of the ocean, where there is no light, and also where seabed volcanic vents produce such an extreme concentration of toxic chemicals that nobody thought that life could exist there either. But it does. So, in looking for life on other planets, the scientists have to mentally get out of quite a few boxes.

I have done work in places like a cement plant in which the senior executives wanted to redesign some systems. Most of them had spent 20 to 30 years in the business. In contrast, I had been in a variety of other plants, such as food-canning plants and beer-bottling plants. I could mentally compare the production lines and what worked best in each and bring this into the discussion. Many people who have spent 20 to 30 years in some business have never ever been into any other sort of business.

I get invited to sit in on company meetings to listen to the plans and to give comment. I have found that many people believe that they are well and truly ‘thinking outside the box’ – but they are not.

The art of thinking is hard work, and ‘out of the boxes’ thinking is the most difficult. Many people fall into the trap of believing that they can just do it themselves because they just declare that today they are going to think outside the box.

They try it, not realising that they are all still inside a whole bunch of boxes. A good facilitator is required to mentally pull, push and jerk the minds of participants to get outside of many mental boxes that they often do not even realise exist.

Edited by: Martin Zhuwakinyu
© Reuse this Comment Guidelines (150 word limit)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Other Dr Kelvin Kemm News
Just to be clear, to defer something means to postpone it. While this might be construed as procrastination, it provides a financial benefit in the customs and value-added tax (Vat) environment. The South African Revenue Service (Sars) deferment scheme provides a...
There has been considerable debate on whether Cape Town should rename a street after former President FW de Klerk. Many people of note have come out publicity in favour of the intended move. In fact, some African National Congress stalwarts have come out strongly in...
I read that Parliament has instructed a committee to look into a dress code for MPs. I think that this is an excellent move. Obviously, this was precipitated by the wearing of red overalls and maid’s outfits by members of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). In fact,...
Article contains comments
More
 
 
Latest News
TSX-listed Oando Energy Resources (OER) announced a $238-million prepayment of certain loan facilities, which it used for the $1.5-billion acquisition of the ConocoPhillips Nigerian Oil & Gas Business in July 2014. The company, which is focused on oil and gas...
More than half CEOs surveyed as part of the latest Merchantec CEO Confidence Index, said load-shedding was negatively impacting businesses, as it lowered productivity and raised costs. The index, released on Wednesday, showed that 76.2% of CEOs felt that...
JSE-listed real estate investment trust (Reit) Growthpoint Properties recorded distribution growth of 7.5% to 84.4c a share in the six months ended December 31.
More
 
 
Recent Research Reports
Construction 2015: A review of South Africa’s construction sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Construction 2015 Report examines South Africa’s construction industry over the past 12 months. The report provides insight into the business environment; the key participants in the sector; local construction demand; geographic diversification;...
Liquid Fuels 2014 - A review of South Africa's Liquid Fuels sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Liquid Fuels 2014 Report examines these issues, focusing on the business environment, oil and gas exploration, the country’s feedstock supplies, the development of South Africa’s biofuels industry, fuel pricing, competition in the sector, the...
Water 2014: A review of South Africa's water sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Water 2014 report considers the aforementioned issues, not only in the South African context, but also in the African and global context, and examines the issues of water and sanitation, water quality and the demand for water, among others.
Defence 2014: A review of South Africa's defence industry (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Defence 2014 report examines South Africa’s defence industry, with particular focus on the key participants in the sector, the innovations that have come out of the sector, local and export demand, South Africa’s controversial multibillion-rand...
Road and Rail 2014: A review of South Africa's road and rail infrastructure (PDF report)
Creamer Media’s Road and Rail 2014 report examines South Africa’s road and rail transport system, with particular focus on the size and state of the country’s road and rail network, the funding and maintenance of these respective networks, and the push to move road...
Real Economy Year Book 2014 (PDF Report)
This edition drills down into the performance and outlook for a variety of sectors, including automotive, construction, electricity, transport, steel, water, coal, gold, iron-ore and platinum.
 
 
 
 
 
This Week's Magazine
Walter Hill
Eqstra Holdings was going to reduce its exposure to contract mining, but it was not yet ready to sell the troubled business, said CEO Walter Hill on Tuesday. He said Eqstra would not sell its contract mining business in a “depressed market”. He said it would be...
Subscribe to Engineering News and Mining Weekly for two years, but only pay for the first year.  The weekly editions of Engineering News and Mining Weekly will be posted to your preferred postal address and also gain access to:
National flag carrier South African Airways (SAA) is in an advanced stage of renegotiating its deal with European airliner manufacturer Airbus to acquire A320 single-aisle (or narrow body) aircraft. The aim is to replace ten of the aircraft still on order with five...
Worldwide, the main thrust in the ports industry over the past decade or more has been to increase efficiency. Traditionally, ports have been run by engineers and mariners and, in the past, increasing a port’s capacity was achieved by expanding the harbour. “That has...
What do you do when an elephant has a toothache? You call Dr Gerhard Steenkamp from the University of Pretoria’s (UP’s) faculty of veterinary science, Onderstepoort, one of only two elephant ‘dentists’ in the world.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Alert Close
Embed Code Close
content
Research Reports Close
Research Reports are a product of the
Research Channel Africa. Reports can be bought individually or you can gain full access to all reports as part of a Research Channel Africa subscription.
Find Out More Buy Report
 
 
Close
Engineering News
Completely Re-Engineered
Experience it now. Click here
*website to launch in a few weeks
Subscribe Now for $96 Close
Subscribe Now for $96