February 20, 2019

The Age of Boxes

One of many definitions of creativity states that it is “the use of imagination or original ideas to create something”. However, there is nothing definite or final about this definition, so people have shown their creativity by, for instance, using someone else’s original ideas to create something extraordinary, or they have drawn inspiration from someone else’s imagination and put it into practice.

Moreover, almost everywhere in the world, creativity is perceived as a priceless talent, and creative thinking is the golden phrase on your CV when hunting for a new job. Whether you are a teacher, a plumber, or a surgeon, there is an unspoken expectation that you will deliver results that are beyond knowledge, expertise and confidence – they must under any given circumstances be the epitome of your creative spirit.

Photo by Erda Estremera on Unsplash

This is where that famous phrase “thinking outside the box” comes into play. Somehow, at some point in time, everyone became terrified of boxes, as if they represented everything that could possibly limit your output of fresh ideas.

The term became incredibly popular in the 1970s, when the nine-dot puzzle was used by many consultants to convince their clients into believing that they could never be as creative as the experts in the given field, so they would hire the professionals to be creative for them.

As you have probably noticed, there is no box in the puzzle. No box whatsoever. But due to the dots’ placement on the paper, they seem to form the shape of a square, thus preventing you from solving the puzzle if you do not allow your mind to wander outside of those imaginary borders.

Such an ironically limited perception led to opening (allow me the joy of this pun) a Pandora ’s Box of abusing the term “creativity”, exaggeration as to its magical powers, and the absolute deification of those who seem to possess this extraordinary talent.

Suddenly, only a handful of lucky individuals that were blessed with the capacity to think outside of the wretched box were truly able to handle your business needs. The over-usage of the term led to the expansion of the various branches that exist to this very day, meant to boost your brand’s success and overall profit.

All of that due to nine dots and the manipulated belief that only few have the gift of creativity.

At first glance, this might seem like a legitimate conclusion, but I am happy to let you know that someone was clever enough to challenge the original research conducted by a psychologist, J. P. Guilford, which misleadingly showed that only 20% of participants were able to break free from the illusory imprisonment of the dots.

The new research showed that despite giving people clear instructions to think outside of the so-called box, there was only a 5% increase in the number of participants who were able to solve the puzzle.

Briefly put, thinking outside of any given imaginary boundaries will unfortunately not let your creativity run wild and free, and boxes are no exception.

In fact, since reality is a matter of perception, the best thing you can do for yourself and your business is to let go of the box completely, along with all other closed geometrical forms. They are most likely illusions imposed by other people’s perception, and they could never impact your creativity unless you let them, by simply adopting their point of view and acknowledging the box in the first place.

If we want to allow for a more open-minded, innovative world where the creative spirit is nurtured and not judged by the amount of money it produces, perhaps Sir Ken Robinson has already given us the perfect advice on how education can serve this purpose.

The simplicity of creative innovation is staggering – it is untamed imagination paired with persistent effort to bring something new to the world.

As John Cleese brilliantly put it, “Creativity is not a talent, it is a way of operating.”

Therefore, your brand is a direct result of your own imagination and hard work, and yes, there are creative experts out there who have dedicated their lives to this way of operating, and they enjoy all the intricacies of creative challenge, but neither are you entirely devoid of the capacity to invent, nor are they the ultimate gods of creativity.

So by all means, call in the experts to start a creative collaboration, but never take yourself out of the equation, because you are the necessary element for a fruitful process, and your creative spirit should grow and develop through exchange of ideas. No boxes necessary.

By Sara