I am sure we have all heard, and likely used, the expression “We need to think outside the box.” This week I am here to speak up on behalf of the much maligned box.
Here are my thoughts for this week:
We do not need to think outside the box we simply need to clean out and rearrange the boxes we have, and sometimes we just need to get a bigger damn box.
When did the box become evil? When did the box become the reason we are not moving forward or creating change in our organizations and ourselves?
We have an inbox for our e-mail and possibly in and out boxes on our desk. We have file cabinets in our offices and file folders on our computers – all boxes. You have dressers and closets in your bedrooms – boxes. When you move you pack everything into boxes and label them. When you are done playing cards you put them back in the box. These ‘boxes’ provide a certain degree of structure and a framework. They allow us to manage all the information, ideas and things in our lives and store them in a way that it is easily accessible when we need it. In the workplace we have policies, procedures, missions, course training standards, lesson plans, budgets, organizational objectives, etc. All of which are ‘boxes’.
What we need to do is continually review and assess the material in our box to make sure that what is there is current, valid and most desirable.
Let me use training police recruits as an example. For every block of instruction (box) there is a Course Training Standard (CTS) that identifies the Learning Objectives, Main Teaching Points and References. The Lesson Plan is built from the CTS and provides more information for the instructor who is tasked with delivering the material. These are ‘boxes’ because they provide a framework to ensure the core of the material is consistently delivered. If we are not meeting the learning objectives then we need to step back and explore the reasons why. Often the answers lies not in thinking outside of the box but rather examining what is in the box and the method in which we order and deliver the material. We may need to pull out the folder labeled ‘Instructional Methods’ and look closely at the material in there. We can pull out the material labeled “Cause we have always done it this way.” and “That is the way it was taught when I was a recruit and look how good I turned out.”. Keep the things that are still relevant to todays world and todays officers, shred the rest and insert some new material on more desirable ways to help adults learn. Once we have this new information we can place the file back in the box and likely change the outcome of our training.
Boxes come in different sizes and shapes. They are made of a variety of materials. Some are virtual boxes. They all serve a purpose. I would put it to you that it is not the ‘box’ that is the issue. It is our own thought processes, our occasional lack of imagination and creativity and our reluctance to change that are the issues.
Some food for thought – a ‘box lunch’ perhaps.