ROCK THE BOX

ROCK THE BOX

They told us wrong, you know.

All those guys who kept exhorting us (for decades now) to “think outside the box,” urging us to forget about our limitations and be “free-free-free” didn’t give us the real story when they touted that ‘Unbound” mindset as the panacea for all of our gnarly problems.

In fact, I think they were blowing sunshine up the nether parts of our anatomy (with the best of intentions, of course).

I suspect they don’t even know what that “box” they keep talking about really is.

You can tell that they’re playing their air-guitars because they all seem to be enamored of that silly nine-dot puzzle where you’re supposed to join all of the dots that are arranged in a square with four straight lines.

Every one of those guys present the very same solution….as if it’s the only solution there is.

Really?

Do it their way and you get a gold star, I guess.  Whoo-hoo!

thanks-for-the-gold-stars
“Thanks for the gold stars” by Jeffrey Zeldman via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
What does all that tell you?

Mostly it tells me that Da Guys have taken what some acknowledged expert has said and they’re passing it on to me without really thinking on it.

The best riff I’ve ever seen on coming up with solutions to that classic nine-dot puzzle is this YouTube video, “Thinking Inside the Box.” It’s a short thing published by TEDxTalks in 2012 and features designer and marketing strategist Magnus Berglund at TEDxGöteberg.

See what I mean?

This guy plays inside the box.  In fact, he makes it rock!

ANATOMY OF “THE BOX”

So, what IS this “Box” thing?

Every one of Da Guys will tell you it’s all those nasty, hard-rub limitations and constraints that handcuff you and bring you down and hold you back from realizing your True Potential.

Without all those stupid restrictions, prohibitions, obstacles, obstructions, and impediments to progress, you could soar, you know.

The thing is, they are right.  We could all fly if there was no gravity holding us down.

flight
“Flight” by Allegory Malaprop via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]
Hey…us humans, we’ve got super-powers:  Imagination, Ingenuity, Innovation, Inventiveness.  All those good “I” words.

The problem is, we’ve also got a brain that’s set up to “fix” stuff.  We are all hard-wired to be alert for ways to mitigate the irritation factor of the things in the world that make us uncomfortable or rub us the wrong way.

However, if there is absolutely nothing wrong with anything in our lives and if everything is all hunky-dory, then we just sit there.

Why not?

Everything is FINE.

the-world-of-my-wild-river
“The World of My Wild River…!!!” by Denis Collette via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
When our world is beauteous and beyond lovely, when it’s all going our way and there’s a cherry pie in the oven with our name on it, there really is no need for us to gear up, grab our trusty sword, gather our True Companions, and set off out of Hobbit-land on some weird-ass quest.

There has got to be some REASON for us to move our booties.

The End of The-World-As-We-Know-It is a Reason.

So is an irritating hang-nail.

So is some dumb tool that doesn’t work right or a rule or customary practice or system that makes no sense and is ultimately counter-productive.

These are the kinds of things that lure us into action.

And taking action automatically turns our lives into a movie or, if you want to be low-tech about it, the actions we take become the start of another story, song, or poem.

So, really, that “Box” all our wanna-be advisors keep urging us to “transcend” is actually The-World-As-We-Know-It (also known as TWAWKI).

Maybe that’s a good thing.  Maybe not.

Only you can decide.

REDEFINING THE BOX AND HOW WE CAN USE IT

My own theory is that TWAWKI is actually like the big old refrigerator box my cousins and I got to play with one summer.  That box was cool.

Before it fell apart, we built awesome worlds with it and got to go on a lot of adventures prominently featuring bad-ass truckers, pirates and one stuffed parrot, paladins and gunslingers, knights and dragons, really cool and crafty American Indian dudes and dudettes, super-heroes and other-worldly alien spiders, and things like that.

(We sat on the one cousin who just wanted to play “house” or “store” or “tea party.”  He really was no fun.)

This 2015 video, “World’s Biggest Box Fort” by Family Fun Pack sure does bring back some sweet memories….

The thing we have to remember is that TWAWKI is what it is.  We can do things with it, but first we have to make sure we are seeing it right:

The Box is the Box is the Box…but what ELSE could it be?

Not having the right tools or the proper materials for some project and faced with inadequate funding plus a fast- approaching deadline breathing down your neck as well as a clueless colleague or two and an assortment of dorkheads who are sabotaging your efforts from on high are all examples of the kinds of limitations, obstructions and constraints that define the parameters of TWAWKI.

They define the parameters of our Box.

These sorts of conditions help us see where we are standing.

If we look around within this space, we can begin to make an inventory of the resources that are available to us that we can use to resolve our problem.

bay-of-saronikos
“Illuminated Manuscript of The Bay of Saronikos…” by Piri Reis, posted by Walters Art Museum, Baltimore via Flickr [Public Domain]
With a map of the territory that has notations about the various obstacles and dangers marked on it and a list of available resources in hand, plus some sort of time-frame to work in, we can begin.

And, if we do it right, because of our inherent super I-powers, we humans can, indeed, change TWAWKI.

Maybe the changes we make will mitigate the problem.  Maybe not.  But, it’s possible that the action we take or the thing we make will be at least one step in the right direction.

If our solution sort of works, we’ll have a new starting place from where we can keep working on the problem until it is gone.  (Then we can go find some other problem.)

If our solution falters or fails, we’ll know for sure that what we tried does not work and we can figure out why.  Then we can go explore in some other direction.

In either case, we can go on.

Boxing ourselves in and defining the boundaries of that box are the first steps to breaking out and making breakthroughs, it seems.

(We already know that just sitting there in the middle of the road really does not work.)

Technology blogger and startups analyst Thomas Oopong, the founding editor of Alltopstartups, a resource for news about top internet startups and technological companies, wrote a cogent article for Inc. magazine in 2017, “For a More Creative Brain, Embrace Constraints”.

In it he delineates the whys and hows for using constraints and limitations to change TWAWKI.  You can access it by clicking the button below.

click-here

ONE MORE TAKE

Innovation and leadership advisor Navi Radjou is a great believer in what he calls “frugal innovation.”

In this short YouTube video, “Big Questions, Big Ideas:  Frugal Innovation with Navi Radju,” he gives a small glimpse at how working with limitations and constraints can lead to very real innovations that solve everyday problems for people who are not living in abundance.

The video was posted by Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs in 2018.

The highlight of this video is a refrigerator developed by a potter Mansukh Prajapati.  It is entirely made of clay and needs no electricity.

Radjou, expounding more on his ideas in a post on the ideas.ted.com site, quips,

“If an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty, then the developing world must be filled with optimists. There, people have learned to get more value from limited resources and find creative ways to reuse what they already have.”

Besides Prajapati’s refrigerator, Radjou points to the resourceful entrepreneurs in Africa who recharge cell phone batteries with their bicycles.

Another successful project was a giant advertising billboard designed by students of the engineering and technology college, UTEC, in the city of Lima Peru, a city that is extremely humid but also very dry.  (It receives only one inch of rainfall a year.)

The billboard the college designed absorbs the humid air and converts it into purified water.  It generates more than 90 liters every day.

Radjou says, “In India, we call these kinds of solutions Jugaad, a Hindi word that means an improvised fix, a clever solution born in adversity.”

When basic resources are scarce and living is hard, there will be people who fall back on their own ingenuity and use it to solve their everyday life problems which can be truly fearsome.

Whatever else may be missing, human ingenuity is boundless.

And that is a very good thing.

Here’s a poem:


GONNA BE IN THE MOVIES

I just saw one more comic-book movie

Where the apocalypse comes

Riding in on mighty metal steeds.

Buildings blow up spectacularly.

People get squished like bugs.

Everything’s knocked flat.

The super hero wins.

The villain loses.

The world is safe for Humankind.

Again.

 

But, then,

In the fare-thee-well,

Next-to-the-last scene,

There’s the super-hero (in disguise)

Walking through a bright and

Shiny, spanking-new building,

Full of bright and shiny people

With no flies on ’em.

Just another day in a workaday world.

 

The rubber band stretched…

And snapped right back into place.

 

Okay,

I know, I KNOW…

It’s a dumb movie.

 

But, I have to wonder:

How’d those guys get things rebuilt so fast?

We are talking BIG buildings here,

Streets of them,

All busted up and shredded.

I mean, where’d they get the funding?

 

And I have to wonder:

Where’d they put all the dead people

That had to be lying around

All over the landscape.

Did the street pizza evaporate?

Did anybody cry?

 

Yeah, yeah, yeah….

It’s just a movie.

The good guys won.

The bad guys didn’t.

And it all just goes away…

Like mist when the sun comes out.

 

Right.

 

So…

I got to thinking

How the whole thing ’bout “forgive” and “let go”

Has gotten tangled up with

“Nah-nah-nah,”

“Ne’ min'” and

“Fuggetaboudit.”

 

Yeah?

Lemme run this one out.

(My warped brain just won’t wrap itself around this.)

 

Okay,

Here’s the deal:

You can stomp around

Doing scorched-earth moves,

Littering the landscape

With toppled, twisted dreams

And ooka-pile-plenty street pizza

As long as you can

Strike noble poses in the sun,

‘Cause, hey, you did what you had to do.

The rest is…well…”collateral damage.”

 

Yup!

It’s your nature.

You can’t help it.

That’s how you are.

Your back was pushed against the wall,

So you blew up the world around you.

 

Ummmm.

Okay.

Right!

 

So then there’s the second half of this screwy equation:

All the REST of the people in the world,

They are NOT super-heroes.

They are helpless, civilized ninnies

Whose destiny, apparently,

Is to be street-pizza and cannon fodder

When the good guys and the bad guys have their tiffs.

And when it’s all done,

When all the dust settles,

Then everything just…kinda…goes back to regular.

 

HUH?

HOW?

WHY?

 

‘Cause the fodder-guys,

They’re civilized.

They are chock-a-block full of

Mommy-understanding, of empathy and sympathy.

They are the embodiments of loving-kindness,

Of unconditional love

Or at least they’re supposed to be….

(Or maybe they’re brain-damaged and concussed….

No short-term memory.)

 

Hey,

They’ll forgive ya ’cause they understand:

It’s your Nature.

So, they’ll all forget about it,

They’ll just pull together

And get this place back in shape

So all the good guys and all the bad guys

Can blow it up again.

 

Hmmm….

I don’t know, guys.

Don’t make a lick of sense to me.

Yeah, yeah, yeah…

I know…only a movie….

 

So, tell me then…

How come our real-life leaders

Act like they are super heroes

Engaged in a battle against the wicked forces of evil-most-vile?

Does that mean WE are the cannon-fodder?

Are WE the evaporating street pizza?

And now I’m wondering

Just HOW are we supposed to rebuild our world

Once the dust settles?

How are we supposed to forgive, to forget?

 

Hmmm….

Sure doesn’t look good to me….

By Netta Kanoho

Header picture credit:  “Boxes” by oatsy40 via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
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24 thoughts on “ROCK THE BOX

  1. Awesome piece. Well when I hear “think outside the box” what I understand about that is that I’m to think differently from what others are thinking. The box to me is like a limitation, so when you think outside of it, it’s like thinking past your limitations. Limitations could be surrounding, family, job, career, status quo. 

    1. Thanks for the visit and for sharing your thoughts, Dhayours.  

      Please do come again.

  2. Hi Netta,

    This is a nice article with lot’s of hidden talent about rock the box. I love those poem which you mentioned below your article. I believe many of my friends will also like it. I am going to share it with them. Do you write poem and publish a book with them? Thanks for sharing some live feelings of life.

    1. Thanks for the visit, mzakapon.  I am so glad that you enjoyed the post and want to share it with your friends.

      I especially like your thoughts about “sharing some live feelings of life.”  It certainly is what I am trying to do with this thing!  

      I do plan to (eventually) publish my poems.  I’m still learning how.

      Please do come again….

  3. This is a very thought-provoking post. I enjoyed reading it and I’ll be coming back to read it some more. There’s a lot of interesting points here. Thinking outside of the box vs thinking inside of the box…cool stuff. I definitely agree with the title, Rock the Box! Great work and awesome site. Looking forward to reading more from you. 

    1. Ivan, thanks for your visit and your comment.  I do appreciate it.

      Please do come again.

  4. Juan Saladin says:

    Thanks for sharing the TEDx talk video. I just loved it. The acknowledgment of our own limitations makes possible to bring our feet to the ground so we could run to our dreams.

    For sure, recognizing how much has been done is a good starting point to understand how far we could go. Embracing our limitations will give a context to the power we must recognize we have after learning what others have been able to do within their own realities with a certain level of knowledge.

    Let’s keep it within the box, and deliver an efficient and sustainable solution to every given context. 

    1. Juan, thanks for the visit and for sharing your thoughts.  I especially like your idea that acknowledging our limitations gets our feet back on the ground.  Cool one!

      Please do come again….

  5. Right out of High School I went to college on a small scholarship for music. Music was my life and I loved every second of creating, writing, singing, etc. 

    It ended up being a very frustrating experience. Music theory, having to read music as a pianist (when I was a singer and could only play by ear), all of these were difficult for me as I was completely self-taught. I wanted to do my own thing and hated being shoved “inside the box.”  

    I had a Jazz Theory professor once tell me that before I could “break the rules” I first needed to know what those rules were. I took that as a basic principle and see how it applies to almost everything. Your post reminded me of that. 🙂

    1. Adam, thank you for your visit and for sharing your story.  You’re right, of course.  All the rules and precepts and such when we’re starting out and trying to master our craft is a pain.  

      The cool part about knowing all about that stuff (if you’re somewhat twisted) is that you can get so many ideas for bending and twisting and shaping stuff another, different way…which can lead to some other, way more interesting paths than you could suss out all by your own little self.  Hee!

      Please do come again….

  6. We all know if we want to succeed, we must first believe in ourselves.

    People often lose confidence in themselves when faced with fears and failure. Great people did not fulfill their dreams precisely because they had already given up on the first obstacles.

    We need to be aware that they are a failed part of life. They are an excellent learning lesson and an indicator that we need to address things differently. Thanks for the post.

    1. Kozakiv, thanks for your visit and for sharing your thoughts.  The road to our own kind of success does indeed require us to keep on trying to get around obstacles and such.  Not giving up is an important part of the journey.

      Please do come again.

  7. Scott Hinkle says:

    Thank you so much for this excellent analogy.  It’s funny, we are hard-wired to fix the world (sorry, the box) around us.  If everything is great, I’m sitting with a soda watching TV or in the hot tub.  It’s only when I don’t like something that I do anything about it.  This can be anything from a slight irritation (hello OCD) to coming up with a way to make something better or more efficient to something that’s just wrong on all levels (a true injustice, if you will).

    These are the things that make us move.  Do you know how out of shape, lazy and fat I’d be if I had nothing to work on (aka DO)?  That said, I think thinking outside the box for most people declaring it from the rooftops is really them just saying, find a solution to this or a way to achieve this goal differently than the status quo.

    Thanks again.  This post really gets me thinking.  I’m going to share it with a few friends and co-workers.

    Scott

    1. Scott, thanks for your visit and for sharing your thoughts.  It really IS scary to think of me without my to-do list and crusades and such.  Boy, I’d be SUCH a SLOB, I bet, and really bored out of my mind.

      Please do come again…. 

  8. Another day, another food for thought, Netta. 

    One thing I genuinely appreciate about your perspective is its tendency to challenge consensus. But by the way, the one who embraces an idea without thinking it through is, in my opinion, the one who has laid down his arms and succumbed to the devastating pressure that comes with breathing.

    Truly, we are always encouraged to think outside the box. It does help to an extent, you know. But perhaps, we actually need to step back and redefine what we call that box because I believe, as Thomas Oppong puts it, limitations are crucial to achieving breakthrough innovations.

    Thank you for sharing and keep up the good work.

    1. Rhain, thank you for your visit and for sharing your thoughts.  I do have this tendency to challenge group-mind.  It leads to many interesting thoughts, I find.  

      I am so glad you enjoyed the post.

      Please do come again.

  9. Hello Netta. This is truly impressive and I have learnt so much from this post. Thank you for sharing this post you titled Rock the Box. Yes we have been acknowledged to think outside the box several times; I agree with you that they actually copied what they learnt and now they’re telling us to think outside the box too.

    Thinking inside the box looks really cool as it enables us to solve problems even when we have limited resources to solve the problems. This is simply amazing! I had a great time watching those videos and especially the inventions. Now is the time to rock the box. Limitation is never an excuse!

    Regards!

    1. Mr. B…thanks for your visit and for sharing your thoughts.  I am glad you enjoyed the post.

      Please do come again.

  10. Sometimes when I come across difficult situations I had to try and think outside the box. But he question remains what is thinking outside the box. It never made any sense to me, a box for me was a set of limitations that were here and couldn’t be over looked. 

    So I learnt to deal with the box and think inside the box on your way to the top. 

    Great poetry here and thank you for this real charming piece of poetry.  Makes me miss the days I had the time to sit down and pour myself on paper. 

    1. Donny, thanks for the visit and for sharing your thoughts.  I’m glad the post was helpful to you.

      Please do come again.

  11. Dave Sweney says:

    I love the title you used for this article. Rock the Box is perfect for the content and it epitomizes the way that I feel about the whole idea of thinking outside the box that has been overused and lost much of its meaning. The words defy the reality for many situations when there is no outside the box.

    You have to deal with the situation at hand with the resources at hand. There is no saving grace outside what you have, and the answer has to come from within using what you have. That is truly when creativity can come into play and real results happen. No pie in the sky wishing, just real action and outcomes (hopefully positive) based on what you have in front of you.

    The TWAWKI acronym was also an interesting point for me in the article and one I like. That seems much more realistic than some imaginary box that we have to get outside of to get things done. Of course, TWAWKI can be changed over time as we learn by doing, and this makes the world of solutions even bigger for us…Great post and I will be back, too much for one reading! 

    1. Dave, thanks for your visit and for sharing your thoughts.  I do agree, of course.  I am so pleased the post resonated with you.

      Please do come again.

  12. Hello 🙂 This is the second post I have read from you, and again I really enjoyed it ! Now I can’t help but think about how in the world where everyone wants to think outside the box, maybe thinking inside the box could really be the new ”thinking outside the box” 😀 

    Well, I think we all have our own boxes but just like you did with your childhood box, we can choose what we do with it and what we bring inside it. However, it is good to keep the box open for occasionally changing some things! 🙂

    1. Welcome back, majam97.  Thanks for the visit and for sharing your thoughts.  I do like your thought that thinking inside the box could be the new thinking outside the box.  Hee!

      Please do come again.

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