The essence of creativity is captured in the idea of “thinking outside of the box”. In this concept, the box represents standard, routine processes while the area outside of the box represents ideas that are new, unrestricted, and creative. While we all aspire to operate “outside the box”, doing so becomes more difficult as we travel down our chosen path of mastery. It is ironic that the more we learn about a subject, the more likely we are to conform to the over-structured thinking of the box.
As we learn more about any topic, our thinking starts to constrict. Although it seems natural to think that increasing our knowledge about a subject is a type of expansion of the mind, as we gain more expertise about the topic, we rarely experience new learning. Rather than increasing our knowledge base, experts tend to learn more details about what they already know. The direction of knowledge rarely moves outward and almost always moves toward more precise but less flexible thinking.
The marble not yet carved can hold the form of every thought the greatest artist has.
Of course, education is a real thing. We have the ability to learn from experiences and use those lessons to more efficiently and effectively solve recurring problems. But while learning from the past often helps us prepare better solutions, education can also convince us that the past reliably predicts the future. Making this assumption can impede us from finding better solutions to the problems we face.
Thinking outside of the box means avoiding being trapped by our own ideas. When we speak about thinking outside of the box, most people think creativity means discarding the box altogether. This concept, however, does not direct us to “discard the box”, but rather to “think outside the box”. The box, a set of constructs that develops during any type of system management, is just as important as the idea which lies just outside its confines.
For creativity to be useful, we must stay near the box, close to the system we are trying to improve, near the problem we are trying to solve. If we should discard the box, then we also discard the problem, something which provides no…