People view their life, job, family from inside of the box or out side of the box. The In-the-box view is “this is the way it’s always been done” or “this is the way I know will work.” The Outside-the-box thinking is “this is the way it’s always been done but can ‘different’ be better? We need both in our society…in our lives.

Three things to know about the box:

  1. What is my box…am I in the box or out-side-the box?
  2. What is their box…recognize other people’s boxes?
  3. When can I get a new box…can I change?

In general, people have a particular propensity for their box. Some have dominant in the box characteristics but show recessive outside the box in certain situations. The converse is true for the dominant outside the box characteristics.
No one is 100% in or out of the box.


In The Box Thinking

A dominant in-the-box thinker does everything by the numbers. Their children are raised by the book, or the way that their parents raised them. They say, “Look at me. I turned out OK.” They won’t go over the speed limit, never let their gas tank go below a quarter tank, and can’t stand to be late for anything. They measure in excess and no detail is unattended.

The dominant in-the-box thinker tends to support the status quo and resist change. Creative thinking, innovative technology, or social/political trends will frustrate them. They tend to rejoice when they finally embrace a change. They feel that innovation requires their approval.

A successful manager, project supervisor or construction worker are examples of in-the-box thinkers. The manager gets it done right. The construction worker builds to the plan. Once the plan is set, all the thinking must stay in-the-box.

Risk of inside the box thinking:

The risk of in-the-box thinking is that it stifles creativity. Had we not looked out side the box, we might be still riding horses, writing letters, and not know the difference between pause and press pause. If doctors were all in-the-box thinkers, we would not be replacing worn out parts. The outside-the-box docs came up with a whole Parts Are Us catalog. I want an outside-the-box doc developing the best knee joint. But, I want an in-the-box doc doing the surgery to replace the knee joint.

Outside-the-box thinkers

The dominant outside-the-box individual may be the less organized, less punctual, and the guy who just passed the gas station a mile ago, but is standing beside the road with a gas can. How things should be done is less important than why things should be done.

This person may be fun to be around because they are always coming up with something new and exciting. They are positive and refreshing because they are positive and refreshing. Are they fun to be around? Yes, for other outside-the-box thinkers. But they drive the in-the-box thinkers crazy.

What is exciting and refreshing is that they are positive about the future, excited about change, and willing to step out in order to step up. They see the status quo, the way we always did it, as merely a foundation on which to build…to grow. The in-the-box thinker agrees that you can’t learn to jump eight feet in a room with an eight foot ceiling. The outside the box thinker agrees and then raises the ceiling to nine feet. We need the outside thinkers in order to grow.

Risk of outside the box thinking:

Outside-the-box thinking nurtures creativity by disrupting the status quo. Most people like the status quo. Most people resist change. Most people are more in the box than outside the box. The outside the box person upsets the status quo. But order and the status quo are necessary for stability, for continuity, and as a foundation for creativity.

There must be a starting point. The builder starts with the foundation. No matter how hard he tries to start with the roof, it will always be the foundation. If the last brick is the only brick, it is the foundation. The outside the box thinker gets more bricks. This would frustrate the one-brick builder.

Balancing the boxes:

Everyone has a dominant and recessive thinking pattern. In one part of our life, we will be well defined and deliberate. In other activities, we are creative, innovative and pushing the limits. Balance is important. When you look at your box, are you looking at the inside or outside? Or, which view do you see the most?

If your clothes are arranged in alphabetical order according to size and color, you are in the box. But if you only know that your clothes are somewhere in the closet, and you are not even sure where you put your box, then you need some in-the-box companionship.

Individuals can adjust box thinking based on the venue at hand. With family or social matters they may think inside the box. But when it comes to their profession, they are out of the box. Balance simply means that you recognize your dominant characteristic and understand how it might affect the people around you. Apply this understanding of you and it will become a brick in the foundation of your character.

Recognizing Box People

Some people are in the box and close the lid. It’s dark and boring. They are intellectuals and tend to think they know everything about everything.

Some people are in the box, open the lid, get excited and enjoy the light, but return to the comfort of their box. They control the lid on their box. They like some change and know they can get out of the box any time. They know that they don’t know and get out of the box in order to learn/grow.

Some people are outside the box. When it gets too exciting, they hop into the box for rest and relaxation. They don’t know that they don’t know but keep asking questions.

Some people are out of the box and don’t know where they left their box. They find that every box they open is occupied. (Authors note: there are not any two people boxes.) There is excitement in their lives but not much order. They don’t know that they don’t know, but who cares, it’s exciting.

In-the-box people are students of the past…that which has already happened.

Outside the box people are students of the future…that which can happen.

Are you in the box or outside the box?

Dr L