As originally published by David Sable on Linkedin. Subscribe to the newsletter!
To Think Outside the Box, Look Inwards
“Think out of the box!”
How many times have you heard that exhortation as a rallying cry to energize tired, old thinking? A phrase that, in my opinion, has become an overused synonym for innovation…like agile and modern. Not only is it hackneyed, I would argue that it is the wrong admonition to apply to the social ills of the world so roiling our society today.
Don’t get me wrong. I, too, have used it, but with a twist, and have written about the creativity and drive needed to think out of the box, out of sight of the box, and yes, sometimes even in the box, as oftentimes the biggest creative challenge and opportunity is to finish a half done canvas. (As we all know, creating on a blank white canvas can be easier than finishing a half-completed task).
Yet, as I ponder the past couple of months and look at who has flourished personally and professionally, I have been struck (as I noted in my previous newsletter) that the secret sauce for success and sanity has been, in my estimation, ingenuity. Ingenuity, from my perspective, is the solving of specific problems, the overcoming of particular barriers, and the creation of fresh, new energy with creativity, smarts, and the resources you have on hand.
I liken the terms innovation to spending millions on getting me pizza quicker and hotter (although, I will swear that the kid on the bicycle brought it as quick and fresher not just hotter), and ingenuity to being the parent who builds a dream castle out of discarded (and sanitized) Amazon boxes…the home industry of personal pandemic masks and, of course, the quick turnaround of cheap, serviceable respirators when there weren’t enough of the $50k model to go around.
And then I had a revelation…a revelation that linked the boxes in, out, and out of sight; the times we live in; personal motivation and ingenuity.
Think about this: What do we tell people who are faced with huge personal challenges? What do we say to help motivate those who have been hit hard by tragedy? What do ask folks to do when it seems all is lost? Where do we look for strength? For inspiration? For the will to go on…?
“Dig deep,” we say. Look within for the power. The strength is inside of you.
See where I’m going?
No one suggests that healing or redemption comes from the outside (religion looks to deity, but even then, it comes from an inward focus). No one suggests that healing or redemption comes out of sight of oneself…to the contrary, we mine our own inner power.
LeBron James talks about what it means to dig deep:
“Basketball isn’t easy. All my life I’ve been striving to make myself better. It’s a full-time commitment. To be the best, you have to work the hardest. You have to chase what seems impossible over and over and over again, because giving up is not an option, and when you feel like you’ve reached your limit, it’s only the beginning, that’s when the time to dig deep, to find the courage to push some more, because if you’ve got the drive, the discipline, and the resolve to do what it takes to make yourself great, then the rewards are endless.”
And that’s where it all came together for me.
Ingenuity is about digging deep. All bets are off—options seem to have disappeared, problems seem insurmountable, faces are long, and despair starts taking over.
And then we look inward. We think deeply inside the box. We take what we have, and we use it in ways we hadn’t thought about before. We apply all that we have to solve the problem and the outcome— it may not be as pretty as we’d like or as neat, tied up with a bow—as we’d wish it to be, but the outcome solves the problem—saves the day…and then who knows?
Racism. Hatred. Violence against others—none of it can be solved out of the box and clearly not out of sight of the box. Unless we address the issues head on, we will never change society…change the world. You see people tend to be serial haters. If I’m a racist, chances are I’m a homophobe. And if I’m Islamophobic, bets are that I’m also an Anti-Semite, and chances are all four and more.
I need to address the box. Each one. It’s so easy to say, “all lives matter.” It is way harder to action Black Lives Matter. One is out of the box and the other is inside it. When I’m outside of the box, and somehow conflate every ill of society together as one—including things like climate issues and shoddy political policy—I might sound “agile and modern”—maybe even woke to some. But I will not get to the problem at hand.
Bill Gates, one of those icons who has emerged, once again, as a true leader over the past few months understands the dynamic:
“When you are failing, you are forced to be creative, to dig deep and think, night and day.”
Let’s apply this dynamic, creative ingenuity that we are all capable of to create real change. Listen:
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” – Barack Obama
And there you have it…
While I look forward to the innovation of faster, hotter, and hopefully fresher pizza delivery, my money for today is on ingenuity—creativity applied to problem solving with few resources.
Dig deep and don’t get caught in the trap, the false start of being forced to look elsewhere other than in. What do you think?