Dan and Chip Heath make a point on the value of boundaries: "We're always told to think outside the box. But it's about time someone spoke up for the box. Because, paradoxically, thinking inside the box can spark creativity, not squelch it. It takes options off the table, but it also dramatically improves the chances that your team will hit the target. So maybe you don't need to think out of the box. Maybe you just need a new one to think in."
Like lines on the field, boxes can be constraints that focus and liberate our constructive choices in playing the great game of business. True empowerment remains freedom within limits, not total freedom. Not even CEOs are totally free to act--they have stakeholders and legal constraints that create the sandbox they play in. Help define the limits and focus of your people and then let them soar.
Even when improv comedians take the stage, they need a concrete setup to do their show. Instead of "Be funny and make me laugh!," they are given concrete but bizarre situations to launch their improv. They might be asked--"What if Romeo had been Dick Cheney and Hillary Clinton was Juliet?" It narrows the paths possible for the comedians, but it makes it easier for the actors to launch their next bit and focus their comedic craft.
Don't just think out of the box when you can look for a fruitful box that will focus your and your team's change and creativity.
Source: Dan Heath and Chip Heath, "Get Back in the Box," Fast Company, December/January 2008, pp. 74, 77.