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Innovation Insights
by Stephen Shapiro

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Tip 4: Don’t Think Outside the Box; Find a Better Box

Summary of Tip 4 (of 40) from Best Practices Are Stupid.

Don’t Think Outside the Box; Find a Better Box

This tip is the reason I wrote the book Invisible Solutions. The concept is so important yet overlooked.

Leaders often encourage employees to “think outside the box” to boost creativity. However, this unbounded approach can lead to impractical solutions. A more effective method is to offer a “better box” with constraints, as this can guide and amplify creativity. This aligns with the notion of “Challenge-Centered Innovation.” Companies have an array of challenges, from technical to marketing to HR. The key to innovation is to accurately identify and address these challenges. A challenge-centered approach to innovation has several benefits over the typical idea-driven method:

  • It focuses on relevant solutions for organizational needs.
  • ROI can be measured for each challenge.
  • Owners, resources, and criteria can be pre-assigned, ensuring efficient solution-finding and implementation.

The idea-driven approach is like fishing in an unknown spot where you capture a lot of junk. The challenge-centered approach targets specific “fish.” Defining challenges enhances creativity. To quote Einstein: “The mere formulation of a problem is often more essential than its solution… To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science.”

Once you have better questions, tip 5 will help you find breakthrough solutions.