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"Thinking In New Boxes" by Luc De Brabandere and Alan Iny is a good title for anyone wanting to improve their creativity in a business setting. While focusing on business, the suggestions may be …

"Thinking In New Boxes" by Luc De Brabandere and Alan Iny is a good title for anyone wanting to improve their creativity in a business setting. While focusing on business, the suggestions may be applied to other areas of your life. Indeed, with a global economy, the business that thinks and acts creatively stands a better chance of surviving. The authors suggest a five-step plan for the creative process:

1. Doubt Everything
2. Probe the Possible
3. Diverge
4. Converge
5. Reevaluate Relentlessly

The book is around 300 pages and covers such points as:

1. Any idea, no matter how brilliant, will eventually need to be replaced.
2. Deductive vs. inductive thinking.
3. Creativity is possible when you are humble about your existing approach to thinking about things.
4. Three essential tasks for opening your mind for creativity.
5. The best way to find solutions is to generate a range of possibilities and test them instead of just trying to confirm your first hypothesis.
6. Most of our "aha" moments come when we soak in as much information as possible instead of depending on "pie in the sky" notions.
7. Using divergence (overcoming discomfort) to stretch yourself and see new perspectives.
8. Using convergence to prioritize decisions to work on the best ideas yo have developed.
9. Suggestions for getting insights from your customers that can help your business.
10. Be sure to consistently evaluate how your way of thinking helps you or may hold you back.
11. Examples of businesses using creativity.

The authors, well-educated and possessing several years of business experience, thankfully write in an engaging and easily understandable style.

Good read for anyone needing suggestions or ways of looking at things in a business setting (although it could be used in other areas of life also).

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  • 1. Key Impressionistic takes from the book of Luc De Brabandere & Alan Iny “Thinking in New Boxes“ by Ramki ramaddster@gmail.com
  • 2. About the Authors Luc de Brabandere is a fellow and a Senior Advisor in the Paris office of The Boston Consulting Group. He leads strategic seminars with boards, senior executives, and managers from a wide range of companies looking to develop new visions, new products and services, and long-term scenarios to prepare for the future. He is the author or co-author of nine books, including The Forgotten Half of Change: Achieving Greater Creativity Through Changes in Perception, and a regular columnist for various newspapers in France and Belgium. Prior to joining BCG, he was the general manager of the Brussels Stock Exchange Alan Iny is the senior specialist for creativity and scenarios at The Boston Consulting Group. He has trained thousands of executives and BCG consultants, runs a wide range of workshops across industries, and speaks around the world about coming up with product, service, and other ideas, developing a new strategic vision, and thinking creatively about the future. Before joining BCG in 2003, he earned an MBA from Columbia Business School and an honors BSc from McGill University in mathematics and management. Iny lives in New York with his wife and daughter.
  • 3. In a rapidly changing world, you can either drive change or become a victim of it, depending on how good you are at harnessing your own and others’ creativity. Those who can do it well end up changing their industries—or even the world. Those who can’t end up being overtaken by other people’s creative tidal waves. What’s the number one block to creativity? People’s tendency to get stuck in outdated beliefs and assumptions—what we call mental “boxes.” Getting stuck in an outdated mental box is easy because it’s comfortable; it lulls you into a false sense of confidence, believing that what has worked in the past will continue to work in the future. But it won’t, because change is inevitable. The goal of this book is to help you break those patterns, and in the process challenge everything you think you know—about creativity, about your organization, maybe even about yourself.  What assumptions do you have that you’re not even aware of?  How might those hidden beliefs be holding you back?  How can you break free to discover entirely new ways of seeing the world and take advantage of the opportunities you might find? Happy Reading … Prelude
  • 4.  The human brain needs frames of reference, or sets of mental assumptions, to make sense of the world.  It’s how cognitive functions work. Sometimes these frames of reference are known as paradigms or mindsets.  Humans literally cannot think without these “boxes.” Boxes help people conceptualize and understand the world, assign meaning, reduce uncertainty, and take action.  But outdated beliefs can prevent people from seeing and adapting to change or, more important, seeing opportunities to create change.  For example,  Blockbuster was stuck in a mental box that defined the company’s business model in terms of retail stores.  Blockbuster’s leaders could not see the market shifting and passing them by as Netflix created a new box that replaced “retail” with “subscription” and “store” with, first, “online streaming” and then “content creation. What is a box?
  • 5. Why are new boxes needed for breakthrough thinking  Individuals cannot get outside of mental boxes completely—the idea itself is impossible.  The conventional notion of Business Creativity, “Thinking outside the box,” is a misnomer because once people step outside of an old box, they are automatically thrust into a new one.  The brain must create a new one in order to keep thinking, perceiving, and ordering the surrounding world.  Thinking outside the box gets people out of their comfort zone, but it gives no inkling about how to redefine beliefs to create new boxes or about which new boxes to pick out of an infinite range of possibilities.
  • 6.  There is a systematic process for doing so, according to the authors.  Thinking in New Boxes outlines exercises that deliberately challenge and dismantle preconceptions; encourage views that may be unconventional, unpopular, unattractive, or even seemingly misguided; lead people to imagine radical and unlikely scenarios and how they may impact the organization; and force people to intentionally make large leaps away from past practices and beliefs. How can leaders & their companies create & choose new boxes
  • 7.  The ability to survive in a world of accelerating change & challenge calls for ever greater creativity in our thinking.  But to become more creative, we need to understand how our minds work.  Once we do, we will recognize that we must do more than simply “think outside the box,” as the traditional business manuals suggest.  We need to “think in new boxes.” In this way, business leaders can marshal their companies’ creativity and give them a real competitive advantage. Creativity in Thinking
  • 8. We Cannot think without models We constantly simplify things in order to make sense of the world around us. Example -1  How many colors are there in a rainbow? You will probably say seven. But why seven, when there are actually thousands? The fact is that thousands is not a manageable figure—so we are forced to simplify, & seven is what we have been taught
  • 9. We Cannot think without models Example -2  How many columns are at the front of the Parthenon? You are probably hesitating and might say anywhere from five to ten. Actually, there are eight. But to have an image of the Parthenon in your mind’s eye requires only that you have a general grasp of the details
  • 10. We Cannot think without models Example -3  How many grains of sand does it take to make a pile? More than a few, obviously. But there is no exact answer because a pile is, by definition, an approximation: we do not need to know the precise number.
  • 11. What is In front of us  The Society we live in..  ..Our company, Our products, Our competitors..  ..Our customers & their needs etc. What is Within us  Concepts  Stereotypes  Judgments  Working hypotheses  Ideas  Frameworks  Paradigms  Boxes
  • 12. 5 Steps to Practical Creativity  Doubt- All our ideas are only working hypotheses  Explore- All our ideas come from the World  Diverge- The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas  Converge- Any idea must be frozen, at least for a time  Re-evaluate- No idea is good forever “Each step in this five-step framework builds upon on an understanding of how the human mind actually thinks & reasons. For each step, there are tools and techniques that will move you closer to finding a radical freedom from preexisting beliefs, discover original ways of looking at the world, and then modify those mental models in interesting ways.
  • 13. 1. Doubt Everything
  • 14.  Doubt Your most fundamental beliefs, Your perceptions of reality & your assumptions about the future.  Doubt the rules you are living by , and the ones governing your organization.  Doubt that your extant tactics, models & strategies are the best ones.  Overall doubt that the way you have been going about getting everything done will continue to serve you well over the long run.  This step will encourage you to adopt a whole new mindset.  Creativity is possible only when you are humble about your existing approaches to thinking about things.  We have seen that all of our ideas are hypotheses, arrived at through induction.  Why should we always doubt these ideas ?  Because we don’t see the world as it is, we see the world as we are Doubt Everything The key is to Challenge your current Perspective
  • 15. Don’t always trust your instinct, what we “ know” is not always what we see  Don’t always trust your “ common sense” , your instinct  In Calculations  In perceived limitations  In perception
  • 16. What do you see here All of us say it is Former President George Bush Upside down
  • 17. But you turn it around see the picture ? Somebody has photo shopped the mouth & the eyes so that it is deformed image of the former President But the brain is lazy Even when we know it is photo shopped The brain goes to the simplest solution
  • 18. First, explore how to doubt everything you think you know, and remember that all your ideas, even the most successful, are hypotheses within you - and not set in stone. Challenge the boxes that determine how you perceive the world, and think creatively about how you're defining the specific problems you're hoping to solve. There are a variety of approaches to help you understand how the ways you've been pre-wired may be curtailing your ability to develop new perceptions. Rediscover inductive thinking and understand the need to step outside your narrow cognitive comfort zone and take risks. Contemplate provocative ways to frame the primary question or issue you're hoping to explore. Doubt Everything- What you need to apply is
  • 19. 2.Probe the Possible- Explore
  • 20. Probe the possible  The Idea of exploring is to recognize that all of these ideas do originate in terms of what we get from the World  It is quite useful for your creative process to gather a set of inputs, and these can take the form of , you know , the trends in your industry- the customer research, competitive intelligence, network analysis etc.  Reexamine the World in front of you with vigor, diligence & refreshed self-awareness  Use prospective thinking “ Prospective thinking means taking a more expansive, long-term view things, staying open to all sorts of possibilities, and doing your best to stay fully aware of what is happening both within & outside your organization or your immediate environment Explore the Options around you
  • 21. We generally know how do this part
  • 22. Reexamine the world in front of you with vigor, diligence, and refreshed self-awareness. Ponder the questions or issues you began to formulate and refine during Step I. Identify the essential changes you and your organization believe are most likely to shape not only your firm but also your entire field and beyond, over the next several years. Analyze the world not so that you can determine the right answers, but rather so that you can ask the right questions. Probe the possible- What you need to apply is
  • 23. 3. Divergence
  • 24. Divergence brings you to the start of the creative process  It is driven & powered by your investigation.  The process should be guided by a noticeably structured inquiry for which you’re trying to generate answers in the light of your exploration.  People often fail by jumping straight into this as a first step.  You need to doubt & see the sights first, so you can harvest more productive results.  The book tells the story of Hindustan Lever Limited executives in the 1970s and ’80s who assumed that customers for laundry detergent in India were primarily wealthy individuals willing to pay for Surf. What they didn’t notice was Nirma, a low-cost competitor, which appealed to an increasing segment of lower-income customers who hadn’t used detergent before.  The company learned from that lesson, as evidenced by Surf’s phenomenal launch and sustained success in the Philippine market. Generate many new and exciting ideas, even if they seem absurd
  • 25. The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas. Divergence calls upon you to create many new models, concepts, hypotheses, and ways of thinking. It entails a freeing up of the mind and spirit so that even what may seem like foolish or ill-advised boxes are not rejected - yet. Divergence- What you need to apply is
  • 26. 4. Convergence
  • 27. Convergence is the phase where you analyze the ideas gathered in the divergence stage  Prioritize the ones put on the table, take a good, hard look at them & select the most useful for your purpose.  In the selection process, understand how consumers think, knowing that they have a natural bias toward ideas and concepts that corroborate, as opposed to those that cancel out what they already hold dear.  Such biases can interfere with their capacity for fresh thinking.  The book shares the classic case of Henry Ford, who notably insisted that the all-black Model T would always remain desirable to consumers.  Even as other car manufacturers built new car models & colors, even when his colleagues urged him to consider pursuing new directions, Ford refused to budge. “After years of fantastic innovations that helped bring the automobile to the masses, Ford fell prey to the ‘anchoring bias’ that leads people to make, or fail to make, new decisions by referencing their prior experience.” Evaluate and select the ideas that will drive breakthrough results
  • 28. Switch from the open-minded delight of divergence to the more analytical (and familiar) process of testing your ideas to see which ones you want to move forward with. Convergence is where your ideas transform from a long list into a more select group, and then eventually down to a still smaller number (or even just one idea) that can be implemented to achieve breakthrough results. Convergence - What you need to apply is
  • 29. 5. Re-Evaluate –Relentlessly
  • 30.  No good idea remains good forever.  “To be successful, it is imperative to create one new box after another, embracing change, and knowing when it’s time to discard one box and replace it with another.”  As the world changes, we will need to change. We will need new boxes.  It is a question of do we proactively foster doubt & challenge our perspectives & try to come up with the next big thing, or do we wait for someone else to do it .  If we wait for someone else, we will be only catching up No idea is a good idea forever. And did we mention Reevaluate? Relentlessly.
  • 31. In a world of perpetual change, no idea remains good forever. Stay on top of your boxes to determine when it is time to discard old ones and develop new ones. A fundamental requirement in this step is agility, a penchant for taking thoughtful risks and learning from examined failure.” Re-evaluate Relentlessly - What you need to apply is
  • 32. Apple- Example 1  Apple, originally a manufacturer of popular personal computers, leveraged its expertise to expand into the multimedia business.  Initially, there was no logical reason for it to contemplate taking on Sony and its ubiquitous Walkman.  But once Apple had created a new box and viewed itself through a different lens—specifically, as a multimedia company that knows circuits and bytes—the notion of developing a digital “Walkman” became obvious.
  • 33.  When Apple first created its highly disruptive, history-making iPhone, the company unleashed years of innovation not just in its phone offerings, but in a seemingly infinite stream of related accessories and applications.  The release of Apple’s long-awaited iPhone 5C and 5S should offer business leaders everywhere a vivid reminder of the distinction between paradigm-shifting “Creativity” and the “Innovation” that often follows.  Creativity & innovation are two separate processes—both important, but not identical. Apple- Example 1
  • 34.  Creativity can be defined as people’s ability to change their perception of reality; by doing so, they can then create new ideas, hypotheses, approaches, and other “boxes.”  Apple couldn’t come up with the original iPod, for example, until its leaders changed their mental boxes regarding what a portable music player was—from the Sony Walkman to one associated with a broader ecosystem.  The iPhone was not the first mobile phone, but it fundamentally changed the box of what a mobile phone could be (as Apple also did with the iPad and mouse). Creativity
  • 35.  Innovation can be defined as a change in reality.  In other words, innovation means taking an existing idea or box, such as the idea for a new product, service, or business model, and turning it into reality (for example, by manufacturing the product or implementing the business model).  Once the first iPhone was developed, Apple was free to create all sorts of new features for and iterations of the iPhone and iPad—encouraging customers to change their own understanding of the products’ possibilities. Innovation
  • 36.  Google’s original aspiration was to build the best search engine ever.  Arguably, the company eventually achieved that.  But for Google to enter a new era of growth, it needed to perceive itself differently.  The creation of a new “we want to know everything” box sparked projects such as Google Earth, Google Book Search, Google Map and Google Labs, as well as further improvements to the company’s search engine along with additional enhancements to their legendary search engine. Google- Example 2
  • 37. Phillips- Example 3  Philips, a high-tech company, had concentrated its efforts on product-oriented ventures ranging from semiconductors to domestic appliances.  Then it started to shift its strategic emphasis and endeavored to identify and exploit global trends in health care and consumer markets.  In doing so, it has become a world leader in several new categories, including home health-care systems.  By thinking in a new box, Philips has used its core skills in different ways—and has fundamentally changed its business as a result.
  • 38. Michelin & IBM- Example 4  Michelin and IBM illustrate how some companies have successfully moved from a product or technology orientation to a solutions or results orientation—without necessarily abandoning their core products or technologies.  Michelin, the tire manufacturer, is now a road safety specialist, while IBM, the computer giant, has entered the consulting business.
  • 39.  Starting out as a cheap disposable pen manufacturer, Bic shifted its business strategy to one which now makes lightweight disposable plastic consumer goods like pens, lighters and shavers. This helped the company to thrive amidst stiff foreign competition from Chinese manufacturers of consumer goods. Rather than simply view itself as a pen company, Bic started to think of itself as a mass producer of inexpensive plastic implements, hence creating a new box. Bic from France
  • 40.  Tsiferblat cafe in Russia doesn't charge for drinks or food, unlike cafes around the world. Instead, patrons are charged based on the amount of time they spend there. The price is two rubles a minute for the first hour (approx. S$5 an hour) & then one Ruble per minute for the time beyond that up to a maximum of five hours. During that time, you can drink as many lattes or eat as many cakes as you wish.  By charging for time instead of food and drinks, the cafe's business model is more similar to that of hotels than other F&B establishments. Tsiferblat Cafe
  • 41. Ace Hotels  Ace Hotel across the US offers its hotel lobbies as places for people to work, chill out & study Touted as the "anti boutique hotel" concept, the hotel chain turns old world buildings into charming hang outs complete with antique furniture, shelves of books, & installation art. Fashioned as Chic Bohemian places, these places lure folks who will order food or drinks from the hotel. Its lobbies are no longer waiting areas but are transformed into profitable hang out zones.
  • 42. Human beings think in mental models; the only problem, however, is that every model has a finite lifespan.
  • 43. Often, it’s success that blinds us from challenging our current business assumptions. Never Stop Looking Around The Corner.
  • 44. The best time to innovate is ALWAYS. Admired leaders are always looking for the next big thing..
  • 45. If you find yourself stuck, It’s likely that you’ve failed to identify your current assumptions and constraints
  • 46. Thinking in new boxes starts when you ask the question, “What should we do?” not, “How should we do what we do?”
  • 47. Want to Ignite the creativity of your Team ? Create a Culture which fosters Doubt
  • 48. Your Breakthroughs are at the intersection Of Inductive & Deductive thinking Deductive thinking is logical “ What I know “ approach
  • 49. Your Breakthroughs are at the intersection Of Inductive & Deductive thinking Inductive thinking is Creative Extending range of possibilities
  • 50. Start thinking in new boxes The challenge is knowing what to look for, and how to react. I saw some real guidance in this book. While the focus of the book is really on business creativity, the following triggers were outlined as weak signals which should not be overlooked in your efforts think in a new box:  A Change in Value Proposition  A new unmet customer or consumer need  The entry of new competitor or new supplier  The advent of new breakthrough technologies  Changes in your organization’s core performance metrics  Unfulfilled business & other potential opportunities  Broad disruptive events  Premonitions, anxieties, and/or intuitions.
  • 51. Mail your comments to ramaddster&gmail.com