Why Sometimes We’ve Got to Think *Inside* the Box

You’ve heard it a thousand times, right?  Think Outside the Box!

But is that always the best answer?  Should we always jump to that first, any time we run into a problem, question, challenge or opportunity?

Let me share a quick story with you.

If you’re on the phone frequently with clients or teaching teleseminars, you know how essential it is to have a comfortable headset.

A couple weeks ago I picked up a new phone and at the same time my headset died.  So I ran to Office Max and picked out what looked like a nice option from the Plantronics brand I like.  Got home and realized my new cellular phone had a different size headset jack than my old one.  Oops.  Should have checked that sooner.

The new headset worked great with Skype and audio recording on my PC so I figured I’d keep it for that and just buy a new one for my phone.  Chalk it up to a lesson to remember to be more observant.

As I stood there, back at Office Max again, looking for another headset and trying to figure out which one would fit my phone, my husband pointed out to me that his came with multiple connectors and asked if I’d checked the box.

Any guesses what’s coming next?

That’s right.  I got back home and discovered the perfect little connector was hiding right inside the bottom of the box and I’d not noticed.

The answer was INSIDE the box!  Not in another purchase — I didn’t need a new headset from a different brand or with a different size connector.  All I needed to do was stop and look at what I already had.

How often do we do this in business? 

We run into a challenge and think we need to totally change our strategy or learn a new skill (or so we think) so off we go searching for a new business model, new marketing plan, new website, new coach, new teacher, new resource, new guide, something new to fill that desire.

Yes, sometimes we need to make a change.  But not always.  So much of the time we’ve already got access to the resources we need — and much of the time what we’re already doing would work fabulously if we made a few tweaks!  Don’t jump ship on a plan, strategy or tactic just because it didn’t work the first time.  Don’t ignore the obvious or conventional ideas if they work well and can serve you (and your clients).

Innovation and creativity are wonderful but next time you get stuck, before you jump out of the box, take a moment to look around and see if the solution really is simple… and right in front of you!

Look inside the box.  When you were a kid a big box could become ANYTHING you wanted it to be…  A house.  A rocket ship.  A costume.  So remember you can transform that box, too.

Your turn!  What do you think about “inside the box” vs. “outside the box” thinking?  Do you think we ever over-complicate things in our efforts to get creative, find better solutions, and reach our goals faster?

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  1. I’ve always thought that real business takes a little bit of both. The old tried and true will still work and needs to work maybe 80 to 85% of the time. Processes are processes after all. However, when one needs to progress, or fix an issue that’s always been around or is new and none of the old paradigms work, that’s when thinking outside of the box is needed.

    Of course, I’ve made that same mistake of waiting for awhile and fussing before looking through the entire box to see that something’s still in there (it’s always something small, isn’t it?).
    Mitch Mitchell recently posted… Leadership During TragedyMy Profile

    1. I have too. Completely agree — we’ve got to remember both approaches are options worth considering.

  2. An outside the box approach to thinking inside the box Michelle :-) Bottom line is slow down and weigh up all your options before taking action.
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    1. Exactly. Keep all your options on the table. :)
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  3. So true Michelle. Sometimes, it’s the simple things that work the best. Thanks for the reminder not to over complicate things. First, look at what’s in front of you & maybe just a tweak will do.
    Much appreciated. ~Debra
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    1. And when it does — we save so much time and energy!
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… What Doctor Who Can Teach You About Going BigMy Profile

  4. Great post Michelle and you’re right – 90% of small businesses would be better off simply taking a good look at what they’re doing and making meaningful improvements rather than chasing bright shiny objects.
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    1. Right. Far too often we’re easily distracted by every bright shiny new strategy when we need to focus on mastering the basics before we move into new things.
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  5. I certainly agree with you Michelle. We need to avoid trying every new program, idea, strategy because, more often than not, what you need is already on your hard drive, in your head or available from someone already in your life. Sometimes what we need is inside the box and other times it maybe outside the box. One needs to remain flexible.
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    1. I am so guilty of the “already on my hard drive” thing. I’m finally remembering to check what I’ve already downloaded before buying any new training. :)
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  6. Hi Michelle,

    Thanks for sharing the interesting story; Just comes to prove that thinking outside the box is not always that applicable in business situations. Sometimes relying on the skillset you’ve already got can help you a lot , even on new and unexplored projects.
    Anton Koekemoer recently posted… Use magnetic content with your social media strategyMy Profile

    1. Hey Anton, you’re welcome and thanks for stopping by and commenting.
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… How to Reach More People with Content MarketingMy Profile

  7. Love it! Make sure you know whats in your box, and use it to the fullest before you feel compelled to search for solutions without!

  8. Oh, I can so relate. It’s so easy for me to think that I don’t have it all and go outside the box looking for an addition. Often that leads me to clutter my life with excess things and excess, anxious thoughts as I try and solve a problem that I essentially created!

    So often I need to work with what I have right in front of me and PRACTICE CONSISTENCY daily. It’s that attention to consistency that changes everything.

    Thank you, Michelle, for the creating the group atmosphere of the UBC so many of us can thrive and be there for one another.
    Best, carol
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  9. Awesome post Michelle. I work in the health and wellness world and was thinking that this is true about what we ‘already know’ – in our head (the box of our body!). So when we get off track that can lead to unhealthy living, we need to look around inside our head and remember what we already know: living healthy has a big payoff for us!

    Thanks for sparking some new ideas:) Great blog here!

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