http://www.engineeringnews.co.za
  SEARCH
Login
R/€ = 14.24Change: 0.10
R/$ = 10.57Change: 0.03
Au 1308.00 $/ozChange: -4.63
Pt 1487.50 $/ozChange: -1.00
 
 
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 Suppliers Directory Research Jobs Announcements Contact Us
 
 
 
RSS Feed
Article   Comments   Other News   Research   Magazine  
 
 
Feb 24, 2012

Thinking outside the box(es)

Back
Cement|Hatch|Systems|Systems|Thinnest Metal|Toxic Chemicals|Drilling|Power
cement-company|hatch|systems-company|systems|thinnest-metal|toxic-chemicals|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
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Other Dr Kelvin Kemm News
I read in a newspaper that a particular day in July was International Plastic Bag Free Day.   Nooo, it does not mean that, on that day, you received free plastic bags. It means that, on that day, you are supposed to not use plastic shopping bags at all. In fact, the...
Nuclear power has been very much in the news lately. President Zuma mentioned nuclear power in the State of the Nation Address and said that South Africa needs to move on nuclear.  The new Minister of Energy Tina Joemat-Petterson later also mentioned the need for...
Article contains comments
People are exposed all the time to a barrage of propaganda about global warming.  Very few even know of the existence of numerous short cold periods, or Little Ice Ages, that have occurred. The most recent one occurred at the time of William Shakespeare and Jan van...
More
 
 
Latest News
Nersa's Thembani Bukula
A standardised tariff for electricity resellers is needed to avoid consumers being overcharged, energy regulator National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) said on Tuesday. "The pressing problem right now is that there is a standardised tariff that they...
Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel
Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel says government will be prioritising six ‘I’s as part of its “radical economic transformation” agenda for the coming five years. Delivering his Budget Vote in Parliament on Tuesday, Patel said the six components...
Venetia mine
In what could be the single-largest contract awarded to construction major Murray & Roberts (M&R) since the Eskom power build programme, M&R subsidiary M&R Cementation has secured a R2.6-billion contract to develop an underground mine beneath diamond major De...
More
 
 
Recent Research Reports
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.
Real Economy Insight: Automotive 2014 (PDF Report)
This four-page brief covers key developments in the automotive industry over the past 12 months, including an overview of South Africa’s automotive market, trade figures, production and the policies influencing the sector.
Real Economy Insight: Construction 2014 (PDF Report)
This five-page brief covers key developments in the construction industry over the past 12 months. It provides an overview of the sector and includes details of employment in the sector, infrastructure and municipal spending, as well as insight into companies’...
Real Economy Insight: Electricity 2014 (PDF Report)
This five-page brief covers key developments in the electricity industry over the past 12 months, including details of State-owned power utility Eskom’s generation activities, funding and tariffs, independent power producers and prospects for the sector.
Real Economy Insight: Road and Rail 2014 (PDF Report)
This six-page brief covers key developments in the road and rail industries over the past 12 months, including details of South Africa’s road and rail network and prospects for both sectors.
Real Economy Insight: Steel 2014 (PDF Report)
This four-page brief covers key developments in the steel industry over the past 12 months. It provides an overview of the global and South African steel and stainless steel markets, South Africa’s major steel producers and events that have shaped these markets.
 
 
 
 
 
This Week's Magazine
Local aerospace company Denel Aerostructures (DAe), part of the State-owned Denel Group, has won a fourth contract to manufacture parts for the Airbus A400M military air transport and air-to-air refuelling aircraft. The new contract, which was won in an international...
Bob Skinstad
Although CEO Mark McChlery and chief marketing officer Bob Skinstad likened themselves to children in a playground when taking on the task of “reengineering and repositioning” the Seartec brand, the “young, dynamic and enthusiastic guys” were like proud...
An increasing number of buyers, in both the new and used car markets, are opting for finance structures that lower their monthly repayments, says asset financing company WesBank. These include the use of large balloon payments (also known as residuals), as well as...
Tertiary education institutions can use search engine giant Google’s Chromebook to provide secure mobile end-point devices for students on which they can share documents, work collaboratively on documents and access education materials and applications being used...
Local ceiling and partition company Abbeycon has beaten global competition at the Saint-Gobain Gypsum International Trophy competition, which was held last month in Berlin, Germany.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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