Unboxing the Box

There is a myriad of methods that encourage critical thinking for decision making and problem solving which are applied in different areas and fields, including business.  We want to briefly go over three before we focus on the salient topic of unboxing the box!



One of the most popular and longtime approaches to innovation and creativity is out-of-the-box or outside-the-box thinking; and now that football season is over, we can easily slide into MLB to illustrate the first popular paradigm. 





Outside the Box

Having played coed softball in High School, the first image that comes to mind when the outside-the-box concept is mentioned is not a cardboard box but the batter’s box, which has not one, but two boxes where the batter stands to swing from (depending on whether the player is a right-handed or left-handed hitter).



The focal point of home plate from the pitcher’s mound, is very different than that of any other position in the game. That is to say, when other players see lines, pitchers see boxes. 



In 2008, Pat Venditte, an ambidextrous pitcher playing with the Staten Island Yankees at the time, and an ambidextrous batter from the Brooklyn Cyclone’s named Ralph Henriquez, made history and gave rise to a change in Major League Baseball which established OBR 5.07(f), better known as the “Pat Venditte Rule.”



Fans might recall this comedic moment on the mound with back and forth between the players, protests from both teams and a bit of confusion.  Ultimately, Henriquez was instructed by the umpire to bat as a right-hander and Venditte struck him out on the fourth pitch that ended the game.  Both players decided to go outside the box that day!



Given his unique ability, skills, talent and the many years of training, you would think that Pat Venditte’s career took off to “infinity and beyond,” like say for instance, Tom Brady in the NFL, but that’s not what has happened.  Stats show that the 35-year-old multi-talented pitcher has played with more than six professional teams in five years and after being given an Outright Waiver in October 2020 by the Miami Marlins, Pat is now a free agent.  As far as Henriquez, the last stats we could find are from 2015 and it appears he is no longer playing in the Major Leagues.



There are many examples of outside-the-box thinking, but with this one anecdote we can show and tell that this approach neither makes a shoo-in nor gives anyone a long-term advantage over others.  Some would even argue that the concept is actually overrated and that on occasion, particularly within established structures, thinking outside the box can diminish your opportunities for growth and professional development; leaving you vulnerable, outside or excluded from the rest of the team.





It is important to keep in mind that in all spheres of life, such as education, health, business, sports and other arenas, factors vary for successful outcomes.  And that while everyone innovates differently, great ideas are not always actionable.  Fundamentally, humans need some frame of reference to think within, like a plot, plat, plan, blueprint or guideline because ideas don’t just hold up on their own.  Even within the hyper-controversial transhumanism movement, scientists will need a base or framework from which to “augment” these super humans.



This takes us right into unboxing the next concept.



Building a New Box

In our day, entrepreneur and savvy businessman, Elon Musk, is probably the best example of someone who in the form of multimillion and billion-dollar companies, built not one, not two, not three, but multiple boxes out of other pre-made or pre-assembled boxes.



That which has been is what will be,
That which is done is what will be done,
And there is nothing new under the sun.  

~ King Solomon {Eccles. 1:9 NKJV}



With a compilation of corporate titles longer than my weekly grocery list, of which the title of CEO of SpaceX is the most recent, along with a fruitful estimated net worth of US$197 billion, Elon Reeve Musk became the richest person in the world in January 2021.



Dating back to 2008, however, after what he described as three strikes, Musk mustered up what was left amid his painful divorce and took the biggest risk of his life in the face of a fourth and final swing that for him would have meant game over.  What happened?  You probably heard.  If not, why not set aside 30 minutes of your down time to check it out in his own words





As inspiring as this story is, think on this: SpaceX and Tesla founded in 2002 and 2003 respectively, only had a ten percent chance of success, but nevertheless, SpaceX has launched two human missions to the International Space Station (ISS) for NASA; which they began building in 1984 and has now been in orbit more than 22 years, with the first crew to reside there in November 2000.  The trajectory shows that Musk’s companies were neither an overnight nor a singular success!



To help assess business risk, here are seven questions posed by Neil Patel, recognized by the United Nations as a top 100 entrepreneur under the age of 35.



1.         Have I wanted to do this for a very long time?


2.         Am I okay with “the worst thing that could happen?”


3.         Will I regret not taking this risk someday?


4.         Does the potential success of taking the risk outweigh the present condition?


5.         Are my business partners eager to take the risk?


6.         Is my partner (or are my dependents) willing to take the risk?


7.         Can I identify when the risk is clearly headed for failure?



Without a doubt there are more, but these are great thought-provoking questions prior to taking off.  So with what we’ve covered thus far, let’s taper toward the last concept that we can consider it together.





Inside the Box

A few years ago, the Harvard Business Review conducted an internal study and asked employees how often senior leaders were seen challenging the status quo, or asking their teams to think outside the box.  The results were:  29% responded “often” or “always,” 32% said “sometimes,” and 42% said “never” or “almost never.”  The data reported that risks were not being taken by senior leaders, and I would add that they must have had good reason.



We know this probably may not go over or sit well with many, distinctly with younger crowds, but constraints and established processes are present in all we do daily and they are necessary for proper function. For this reason, thinking in or inside the box has gotten a bad rap because this concept can become rigid in providing structure, but it also offers measurable benefits.


Trusting established systems has its advantages and here are 10 to reflect on:


  • Aids you in staying grounded and accountable. 
  • Helps you be an effective innovator, not just a different one. 
  • Facilitates ways to find simple solutions to irregular or complex challenges in less time. 
  • Keeps you steady in the game as you follow the playbook; with tried and tested strategies proven effective over time. 
  • Diminishes brainstorming events and/or periods of idleness, since creativity is not in real time or on-demand! 
  • Supports you in staying focused and on task. 
  • Eliminates the need to compartmentalize tasks and responsibilities. 
  • Motivates you to feel purposeful. 
  • Encourages you to stir up team spirit to include other players. 
  • Affords you perks and pleasant surprises! 





Wrapping it up, here are key examples of the three concepts discussed:


  • Thinking outside the box can be compared to the electric cord that connects to a high-tech luxury sports car for fueling it.
  • Building a new box can be compared to the SpaceX program for human missions to Mars. (boom!)
  • Thinking inside the box can be compared to using eggs in a recipe to create structure and stability in the batter.



Creativity, adaptability, or both are found in all of these examples, right? But these concepts cannot be applied in every problem or situation. Out of the three considered, only one; thinking inside the box allows you to relax some of its conditions. In other words, the eggs can be substituted with applesauce, yogurt, or a ripe banana to bake a cake. Whereas, it wouldn’t be so easy to relax constraints or conditions in substituting the electric cord, a rocket booster or a spacecraft. To attempt a successful outcome by replacing them would take a whole lot more time and money, which translates to decades and trillions of dollars! The risks are too high for something which could result in epic fail.



So it can be with building your own direct selling business.  The need to think outside the box, or far less, to build a new box is trifling, unnecessary and therefore not recommended.  Like they say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”  I concur and add, “…just use it and enjoy it.”



The Box

Just like that we arrive to unbox the box!



It is sometimes said, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater!”  It’s pretty much the same idea here.  Typically, in all of our attempts at problem solving, troubleshooting, managing what at times seems unmanageable, and even simplifying steps to complete a project, we lose patience in the wait.  As a result, in the rush for accomplishment, the box gets lost in the shuffle or altogether thrown out the window. 



Creative entrepreneurs especially, have a tendency to lose sight of what is truly essential and of greater value, because the focus is directed on doing something extraordinary.  Rather than working on the end result, many become fixated on the means to an end, or on the trivial and non-essentials; oftentimes “creating” one mistake after another or added problems to solve.



If you are a business owner or want to be one, the box is the hallmark of your business; the immutable game plan or road map to your success.  Undeniably, successful business leaders keep their focus on the box. 






Therefore, in unboxing all of the boxes the question remains; why exert unnecessary time, energy, or expenditures thinking outside the box or building a new box? 



Stay passionately fixed on the box itself.  Doing so will not guarantee that everything will be copacetic, but you can rest assured that the structural integrity of the box will always remain intact, effective and useful.  Purposefully set your attention on it and work with it just as it was intended.


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