Don’t Think Outside the Box

…don’t think outside the box, because outside the box there’s a vacuum.  Outside the box there are no rules, there is no reality…think along the edges of the box, because that’s where things get done…that’s where you can make an impact.” ~ Seth Godin

I was in a conversation with a young, innovative leader the other day and I asked him what his strength was. “I think outside the box,” he said. My response was “don’t do that.”

“Don’t think outside the box.”

The young man looked at me like I was a doddering fool. 

“Nothing happens outside the box.” I said. 

Another skeptical look.

I explained that it’s great to be forward-thinking and innovative. I try to be that way myself in my work. I mentioned Seth Godin’s book Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?, (Amazon link) which was published way back in 2011.

Godin encouraged us not to think outside the box, but to think at the edges of the box. That’s where the audience was for innovation and creative solutions. It’s at the edges of the box where you can have an impact.

Nothing happens at the center of the box. It’s boring. Same old stuff, that’s often out-of-date. It’s dangerous in the center because sooner or later you’re irrelevant. 

Outside the box is just as dangerous. It’s a vacuum. There’s nothing there. There’s no audience. If you’re outside the box,  you’re not taken seriously; it’s a lonely existence. 

Real innovators operate at the edges of the box and move the box’s boundaries outward, creating a bigger box. But they always stay within those boundaries.

Make an Impact Inside the Box

In order to make any kind of impact, your ideas and your language has to resonate with your audience. If you’re pitching ideas that are way out of the audience’s scope or their budget, you’re not taken seriously at all. If you only tweak an idea or program from a few years ago, you’re considered out of touch.

But if you listen carefully to the specifics of what’s being said, and you nudge the frame gently and intelligently into something different and engaging, then you’re viewed as an innovator who brings quality work.

And you?

It’s always about you, at least here. So, where do you want to be? 

If you want to be impactful, you want to be on the edge of existing practices, helping define new best practices. 

If you’re resting on your laurels of using current best practices, you may well be on your way to becoming obsolete. Because someone out there, at the edge of your box, is developing new best practices.

Be that person, operate at the edges of the box.

Image copyright: : : flynt

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