New Box thinking

We have been tough for decades to think outside the box as a way to be more innovative and see different perspectives. The issue with that is mostly we are thinking from the same box perspective but from different viewpoints but the box is still the same but from a wider angle or what is called a bird or a helicopter view.

This kind of thinking is almost hard to come up with new dramatic innovations and changes to imagine what the future would look like.

In this article, I’m discussing more thinking of a new box, but first what is the box?

What is the box?

The box is mainly the boundaries of the problem/solution space that you are focusing on which can be mapped to the world, enterprise, department, a function inside the enterprise, or even a group of things. Your mind is one that defines those box boundaries and your box can be different from my box even if we think that we are considering the same box.

When we face a challenge, we start to think about how to overcome that challenge and we start thinking inside that box boundaries and are almost overwhelmed with details inside that box, from actors, processes, tools, and systems used in that boundaries.  At that moment, a wise man will start suggesting to go out and think more from a high-level context which is out-of-the-box thinking.

This will let you think of the high-level issues and how to tackle them from different perspectives. This kind of thinking is very effective and has proven to improve the current situation and come up with new ideas and solutions to the existing business problems within that boundaries.

So, what is New Box Thinking?

New Box thinking is beyond the current context, it let you imagine new situations that do not even exist to envision the future which is business scenario planning. This will help you imagine new possibilities and boundaries, doubt every fact that you see relevant in the current situation, and be ready for the future and unforeseen events.

Complicated? So, let us think about the following questions?

Would you imagine before Covid-19 that the remote & hybrid work will be the new normal replacing the physical offices? If someone asked you that question before Covid-19, almost most of the business leaders will say no, it is not possible, it is still even debatable now during the Covid-19 recovery.

Let us see other scenarios,

  • Do you think that global internet & connectivity between countries will shut down and be local country border internet?
  • The new cities will be on spaceships? Would you imagine that?
  • With the rise of climate change, do you think that 1 liter of water will cost more than 1 gram of gold?
  • Do you think that people will not need physicians to diagnose and treat themselves?

I would say that your answer will be No, this will not be possible or foreseen shortly! So, if we tried to ask the question differently starting with the remote work.

  1. What can lead to having the remote work as the normal way of working?
  2. What if the global internet shut down, how do you imagine that could happen?
  3. Imagine if your new home will be on a spaceship, what can lead to that?
  4. After 10 years from now, people will invest in saving water and it will cost more than gold, what could happen to reach that situation?
  5. If you felt sick and you can treat yourself immediately? How this can be done? Or how we can help people to treat themselves?

Now, you will start guessing and thinking of different possibilities, for example, another pandemic that leads to remote work. Pollution and advanced space technology may lead people to invest in homes outside the earth, biotech advanced technologies that can diagnose your conditions without any inputs and even predict the conditions and order the medicine without any human intervention.

These are just examples, and imagine if you think of your business in the same new box thinking way, you will invent and innovate in new things that no one thought about them before.

It does not mean that you need to think about dreams and divert your business to impossible scenarios, but putting different props to start the ideation, then narrow them to what actually can disrupt your business, or maybe introduce new business models. 

This is what will create the new demand from the market, make the market ready for new innovative services and products, or make the world more sustainable for any crisis.

Thinking in New Boxes: A New Paradigm for Business Creativity

Thinking in new boxes was introduced by BCG for business scenario planning and imagining the business from different angles outside the current boxes and thinking of new boxes.

Alan Iny & Luc De Brabandere co-authored a wonderful book “Thinking in New Boxes: A New Paradigm for Business Creativity” discussed the thinking process since 2013, and I think it is still not been adopted well in the business context.

I wrote this article to remind myself and also the reader of how important is that in the current days, lots of events are happening, from a pandemic, war, trading issues, climate change, and other big world issues that were not predicted before, and I think we are still working on fixing the issues from the in and out the box thinking.

It is not always about inventing new things, it also helps in preventing bad things from happening

How to think in new boxes!

the authors introduced 5 steps for thinking in new boxes:

  1. Doubt everything
    •  it is about challenging every assumption, fact, rule, known knowns, and known unknowns.
  2. Probe the possible
    • Identify trends from different perspectives within and beyond the industry, inside your company context, and at global events.
  3. Diverge
    • Here, we get many ideas as we can without judgment
  4. Converge
    • It is about ideas evaluation and narrowing them to what are the possible ones and throwing the bad ones.
  5. Reevaluate relentlessly
    • The world does change, so do not stop at this new box, you need to rethink again and evaluate

Looking forward to your thoughts, comments, and new boxes

Cite this article as: Mohamed Sami, (March 27, 2022). "New Box thinking," in Mohamed Sami - Personal blog. Retrieved November 30, 2023, from

Also published on Medium.

New Box thinking
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New Box thinking
The current events and rapid change that disrupt the whole world needs to have a new way of thinking. Thinking in new boxes was introduced in 2013 but it is very relevant and effective to envision the future and prepare for the change.
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