Thinking in New Boxes: A New Paradigm for Business Creativity

by Luc de Brabandere, Alan Iny

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“The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but 'That's funny...” - Isaac Asimov

Coming into my first design thinking workshop - now standard training for a consultant - I like the rest of my comrades did not know what to expect. Scattered across the floor were LEGO, colour paper, and soft toys with one of our senior partners sitting in the middle of this chaotic mess with a stuffed elephant in hand. 

This workshop was my first experience with what BCGs Luc de Brabandere and Alan Iny called Thinking in new boxes and what IDEO would later call Design Thinking. A way to take the mind and bend it to new thoughts and insights and may have practical implications for how you manage problems. 

All I remember thinking is this is weird. 

The process that Luc and Alan describe comes in five phases or steps.

Step 1: Doubt Everything -- "...pushing you to contemplate provocative ways to frame the primary question or issue you're hoping to explore."

Step 2: Probe the Possible -- "By the end of Step 2, you will have established an evident sense of the issues you want to address and the objectives you hope to accomplish."

Step 3: Diverge -- "To paraphrase Linus Pauling, the best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas...during divergence, no idea -- as idiotic or inappropriate as it may seem to anyone -- should be immediately rejected."

Step 4: Converge -- "Convergence is where your ideas transform from a long list into a more select group, and then eventually down to a still smaller number (or even just one idea) that can be implemented to achieve breakthrough results."

Step 5: Reevaluate Relentlessly -- "The key objective of the this fifth step, and indeed of the entire cycle, is to help you foster a new kind of creative process that is not only practical, but also sustainable, enabling you and your organization to sustain your creativity over the long haul."

As I have developed my professional Toolkit, design thinking and learning to think new boxes has become a paramount way to create new ideas that lead to a unique competitive advantage.

However, this book is not in entirely necessary and in many ways we have developed beyond a simple five-step process into a more hands-on Prototyping methodology. And furthermore, we have come to realise that great ideas are not Eurika moments but small curious ideas that need to be proven and developed to be something useful.