Difference between revisions of "Out of the Box"

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Revision as of 18:27, 25 September 2007

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Working Out of the Box Ideas

We hear the phrase "out of the box" all the time, but what does it mean?

We are out of the Box

People often describe an idea as being out of the box when they mean that it is unusual or innovative. The ideas we are working on, return to the Moon, Helium-3 from the Moon, etc., are definitely out of most people's box. We are therefore well advised to take a minute and think about what this box is.

What is the Box

The box is really a social construct. It is made almost completely out of virtual information that is not written down, rarely discussed, and never defined. By the box's very nature its limits are fluid and shift with time. The box is definitely a Meme but putting in this class does not help much to define it.

Despite this nearly complete lack of definition, management people, and other control freaks, seem very sure of their ability say what ideas are in the box and what ideas are out of the box. It is like art. I don't know what it is but I know it when I see it. This causes a lot of frustration for creative people.

Failure Rate

The failure rate for out of box ideas is very high. You are very lucky if one in ten works. Get use to it. If creativity is your game, then you had better accept the rules of your game.

Managing The Box

Even the most confirmed out-of-box person has to concede that managing out of box ideas is a very difficult task for technical managers. The failure rate is through the roof. It is impossible to tell a winner from the pack of losers until very late in the game.

When your manager, or teacher, is giving you a hard time, you need to accept that you are not making his or her job easier. Consistently promoting out of box ideas is rarely good for one's career, unless you get very lucky.

In or Out?

It is a problem then for a creative person to know what is in the box and what is out. The true is that creative people have no idea where the limits of the box are. We simply do not know and have no way to find out.

Technical people have a particularly hard time with this. The Box is a social construct made of language and the interactions of people. This is an area technical people are most weak in. We usually just blunder ahead.

Pushing the box walls

One advantage of working truly out of box ideas is that it makes acceptance of just slightly out of box ideas easier. If you give a manager a range of ideas from in the box to out of the box and down the street, then the slightly out of box ideas are a lot easier to accept.

The Large Organizations

Large organizations, government and commercial, have a particularly difficult time dealing with out of box ideas. Part of the problem is simply fear of change and part of the problem is group think.

Having everybody think alike, particularly the managers, is an efficient way to operate. Everybody can communicate by executive summary. In presentations, you skip everything except the key points.

The problem is that it is impossible to present an original idea in group think or even in executive summary. Their strengths prevent innovative thought.

This is why large organizations prefer to buy out small innovative organization rather than do their own out of the box work.

The Penalty

What happens if an organization does not put out the effort to work out of box ideas? The organization dies!

  • Sometimes a new idea completely replaces your primary product. Not one slide rule company got into the pocket calculator business.
  • Sometimes you simply get out competed in the market place. These days the winning company is often off shore.
  • Sometimes your organization become an obsolete dinosaur and dies a slow painful death.

What's this have to do with Lunarpedia?

We are working a number of out of box ideas here. One purpose of Lunarpedia then is to make these ideas seem innovative, but not threatening, to a large number of people. We are moving the wall of the box to include returning to the Moon.

There are a lot more ideas on the Purposes List.