This is the header from a blurb in Bloomberg Businessweek touting the new, new way to solve problems. Out of the box is dead, long live in the box (or something to that effect). The interesting part is what the author, Alan Iny, goes on to say; essentially, we need to question the question. Don’t take either questions or answers as absolutes or givens. This is a fairly fundamental concept that really makes sense, but when we are up against the wall, we tend to forget. We tie ourselves up in great big knots searching diligently for the answer to the question that has been asked, without really understanding why its being asked in the first place.
I remember back in the day when I was selling a big software system that ran on UNIX. Our team was terrified that prospects were going to ask about our plans for running on the NT platform. Because we didn’t do that. So we would lose the deal, right? We spent a lot of time strategizing about how to skirt the issue, fudge the question, develop a credible strategy around our future plans for NT. Turns out, they were mostly just curious. NOBODY was running on NT, but our prospects were looking to us as experts in the technology space to give them some trending information from a more informed perspective. So instead of losing sleep about not running on NT, all we really needed to do was question the question: Oh yes, NT. Why do you ask?
Mr. Iny then goes on to suggest research and brainstorming as the strategy for solving any company issue. Interesting point again. Looking for relevant data and spitballing how said data might apply seems like a pretty reasonable approach. Except…here is the thing. Seems like most of us don’t have time to read this blog, much less open up some clean headspace (a basic necessity for trying to look at the situation with fresh eyes and find alternate conclusions). Also? We tend to get so in the weeds with the issue at hand that we can’t see the forest for the trees. We are running blind.
So it would seem that the 6th point to add to Mr. Iny’s otherwise sound 5 point strategy is the need for a way to clear the decks (mentally) and open up some of those cob-webby spaces that haven’t been out in the light and air for some time. In fact at NewCo we pretty much agree with everything Mr. Iny had to say, but we also think it just doesn’t go far enough. If the organizational mind is stale and overcrowded, it seems fairly unlikely that there are going to be any great new options uncovered. On some levels our approach is as basic as Mr. Iny’s. Doubt Everything. Research. Generate Ideas. We just think it makes sense to add some stuff. Get outside. Put the technology down for a minute. By all means, stay in the box but clean it out. Sometimes the best way forward is to “retreat”. What does that look like for your organization?