Thinking outside the box is hardly the only spur to innovation, write marketing professors Boyd (Univ. of Cincinnati) and Goldenberg (Hebrew Univ. of Jerusalem) in this bouncy yet grounded nod to the creative impulse.
Indeed, readers are less likely to find inspiration and exercise creativity outside the box than in. The authors discuss systematic innovative thinking: searching for underlying patterns and logic that are hidden in plain sight and looking for resources close at hand. “We believe that you’ll be most creative when you focus on the internal aspects of a situation or a problem—and when you constrain your options rather than broaden them,” they write. The authors outline some primary concepts to consider: Subtraction—remove something, even something thought to be essential; think of Apple products, but removing screens on anesthesia machines is also relevant. Multiplication—e.g., multiple-blade shavers. Division—e.g., tracks in a music recording. Task unification: “force an existing feature (or component) in a process or product to work harder by making it take on additional responsibilities”—like backpack straps energizing shiatsu points. Attribute dependency—e.g., information and geosynchronicity in smartphones. The point is to resist implicit assumptions and false contradictions, “breaking the blind spot that is Structural Fixedness, the tendency to see objects as a whole.” You can work backward as well—function follows form—though with a specific challenge, that is more complicated. Still, the authors do not prove that creativity is a science, and their optimism can be jarring: “By following method, you can create new and exciting things—or conceive new and exciting ideas—on demand.”
Creativity emerges from behind a number of guises, and Boyd and Goldenberg’s structured approach fits the bill with so many familiar examples that many readers will wonder, “why didn’t I think of that?”