Thinking inside the box


Without a box, there is a risk that creative work becomes very splintered and unproductive, roughly like writer's block before one knows what to write about. Not surprisingly, creative people also tend to be very productive, because it is easy for them constantly to produce new solutions since they are clear about the limits.

We have now collected enough information about what creativity is and how it works to answer an earlier question: If creativity is not thinking outside the box, then what is it? The simplest answer, and the one that comes closest to the truth, is that creativity is really about thinking inside the box.

Contrary to what one might think, creative people have very distinct and limited boxes inside their heads – boxes that bring to mind the box in the exercise you did with the dots in Chapter 6. That box had very strong but invisible walls that prevented people from finding solutions outside the area in question. Such a box is really a better metaphor for creative thinking.

Psychological research shows that creative people are fully aware of the walls that confine their thinking. Researchers even go so far as to say that knowing where the walls are is a criterion for achieving a creative result. This explanation works on two levels.

The first level concerns the box as it is usually thought of and as it functions in the expression ‘to ...

Get Creativity Unlimited: Thinking Inside the Box for Business Innovation now with the O’Reilly learning platform.

O’Reilly members experience books, live events, courses curated by job role, and more from O’Reilly and nearly 200 top publishers.