Saturday, June 25, 2005

In the Box or Outside the Box?
Which Yields More Innovation?

Are boxes friends or enemies. Some boxes – the ones that become paradigms for how we get work done efficiently – these are good boxes. But even these can become traps to fend off innovation. So we always say “let’s think outside the box.”

But Dr. Peter Suedfeld, a psychology professor at the University of British Columbia, has completed research that puts people into a box of sorts – a dark room with no outside stimuli. And the people in the experiment exhibited increased creativity. He says “to the extent that a box keeps the outside world away, it may be better to think inside a box.”

That runs counter to the method used so successfully by Doug Hall where innovation happens inside a box -- the box being his Eureka Ranch, just north of Cincinnati. Doug can point to thousands of new products that resulted from Eureka experiences where teams are exposed to novel stimuli that spark new ideas. In large part, his process works because of his brilliant leadership in the sessions … but his use of stimulus exercises in a team setting is more than successful.

It might be interesting to have Suedfeld and Hall in a dark room and then in the think tank at Eureka Ranch to see which method results in more innovation. There is more than one way to skin a cat.

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