How many times a week do you hear someone refer to "out-of-the-box" thinking? It is not unusual for me to hear or say these words very frequently. This may be another of those phrases that has lost its meaning from overuse. At a meeting this week I noticed that this phrase may be familiar but also unclear as to how one goes about looking for and exploring that space that is outside the box. I have a couple of observations that might help and I encourage you to respond with others. You and the thinking that is going on around you may still be inside the box if:
• You look around and everyone looks like you. There are different kinds of diversity and they are all important to shake up the way we think. "Identity diversity" has to do with whether we look the same - age, gender, race, etc.
• You listen carefully and realize everyone is thinking the same way. Cognitive diversity is another way to look at diversity. Do we have sufficiently different experiences and come from different cultures so that the way we look at the world is different? This also includes the reality that we actually may know different things, different facts and capacities.
• Everyone is from the same sector as you. That is, is everyone in the room from the government, or from the business sector or from education or a community-based organization?
• Everyone is from the same scale in the community. That is, everyone is from a big organization or everyone is from the neighborhood or everyone is, well from the same scale.
Attention to these simple ideas does not guarantee that out-of-the box thinking will occur; I just think that if you want to find the space outside the box that these observations may help.
Now, let me throw out one more idea that I think has importance for making things better. Diversity trumps ability. I say this with all due respect to smart people everywhere. There is amazing research that has come to show this to be true. It boils down to the limitations of any one person and the nearly limitless capacity of many diverse people together. The differences we bring matter in both problem-solving and predicting.
See you around the community.