Don’t Think Outside of the Box

Don’t think outside of the box.  Or at least, don’t tell me you are thinking outside of the box.

Forbes recently ran an article titled Jargon Madness.  I love this opening paragraph:

The next time you feel the need to reach out, touch base, shift a paradigm, leverage a best practice or join a tiger team, by all means do it. Just don’t say you’re doing it. Because–and please believe us–all that meaningless business jargon makes you sound like a complete moron.

In my business life I have worked in management for a Fortune 500 company and several other prominent branded businesses.  The mindless quoting of hip sayings just about drove me mad.

The only complaint I have about the Forbes article is the omission of my pet peeve statement to think outside of the box.  I had reached a point where I think I would stuff into a box the next person who told me that they were thinking outside of the box.

Hold on before you get too worked up.  I know that at times fresh ideas are vital to an organization.  Jesus warned us against trying to place new wine in old wine skins (Mark 2:22).

However, we should also heed the words of the preacher,

What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done,
and there is nothing new under the sun.
(Ecclesiastes 1:9 ESV)

Our modern culture is overly enamored with what is new and shiny.  We seem to be on a targeted hunt for whatever is novel instead of what is tried and true.

One of my former bosses in the hospitality industry taught me his basic philosophy of running hotels – provide clean, well-maintained rooms with great service.  This philosophy applied to the 69 room hotel I managed and to the luxury 4 star hotel in which I was one of the key managers.

Everything else we tried to do was merely an extension of this core philosophy.  Outside of the box evangelists forget that what is inside the box is the substance of the organization.  The stuff on the outside are like ribbons and bows on a package.  They might pretty things up, but the inner contents are about what people write thank you notes.

When you hear somebody chide others for not thinking outside the box, here are possible translations of what they really mean.

1.  I don’t have confidence in our core product, so we need to divert attention away from it.

2.  I don’t really know what we are about, but here’s something novel and shiny.

3.  I know that billions of people have lived before us, but none of them were as smart as I am.

4.  I know that you have countless years more experience, but you are just stuck in your ways.

5.  I don’t have the discipline to stick with what I should be doing, so I’ll start something new.

It is possible that some organizations have junk inside their boxes.  Perhaps the people who work for these deserve a pass on what I have written.  To the rest of you – by all means, test out and run with your great ideas.  Just don’t forget what’s already inside the box.

This doesn’t just apply to corporate businesses.  It also applies to Christianity and the church.  What is inside the Christian box is pretty spectacular.  These contents don’t really need the latest and greatest fad.