Ideas: Thinking Into Other Boxes

Think Outside the Box is often bad advice that leaves too many people wandering around, proudly lost in thought. The better opportunities come when you Think Inside Other Boxes…

How to Think Inside Other Boxes

1. Value the box inside your mind. It took lots of money and effort to build it, so don’t discount it. Just don’t overvalue it. Expand that value by connecting it into other boxes.

2. Find other people with interesting boxes, so together you can look at the same things from different angles, bridging a wealth of talents, experiences, insights, and ideas.

3. Create multiple-point perspective in your thinking by exploring how you can see the same things from different points of view, adding both breadth and depth to thought.

4. Do this over breaks and meals in a casual setting — when you can break bread, you break barriers.

Rules for Thinking Inside Other Boxes

1. Remember, you’re a visitor. Be polite, be curious, be humble, be prepared.

2. Be open-minded about more than just the thinking you already agree with. Try to withhold judgments long enough to learn something unexpectedly useful. As Jonathan Haidt, author of The Righteous Mind, suggests: “Listen as if you were wrong and wanted to know why.”

3. If you make a mess, apologize and clean it up — or you won’t be invited back in.

4. If you believe you’re right, learn to defend your best ideas logically, faithfully, and graciously. And, if you’re wrong, learn to admit it logically, faithfully, and graciously.

The advantage of thinking inside other boxes comes with the learning from boxes different from your own. Adapting the notion of multiple-point perspective, it’s bringing together different points of view about the same issue, but with a sense of common ground. Mutual trust is the thing that gives people the freedom to safely wrestle with the contentious issues. This works best when the sense of the shared underlies the sense of the divergent. It may mean connecting with someone from another country, it does not mean another planet. Find the connections first, then diverge.

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