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Are You Shaking The Box?

Have you heard of the term “shaking the box”? It’s a great way to trigger new thinking – or at least try to unearth current hidden thinking. When encountering a situation, you go into it with the express purpose of creating disruption, just to see what people’s reactions are – and what you can observe from them.

For example, I use this in ideation sessions. You go into a situation where you are with a team in a room and you have mapped out your problem statement. You take a break. Then when you begin ideating, you come up with totally wild, crazy, out-there ideas. They address the problem statement, but they are so far-fetched and disruptive, they are obviously not doable – at least not now.

(You know my stance on the execution of wild and crazy ideas: everything will happen we just don’t know when)

For example, in one session we came up with an electronic money solution that literally shredded cash at one end and printed out money at the other. Sure, it’s not possible today, but at some point in the future, when the technology is right and possibly the laws are more relaxed on what can be considered “legal tender”, maybe an idea like this could be a billion-dollar idea.

The key is to present this disruptive idea as a legitimate idea for real consideration. Then you step back and observe the reactions of the team, to see how they digest it.

If you see shock, that’s one kind of person (probably a ShouldWe), and if you see a smile, that the other (a DoIt). The first kind of person will likely not be able to contribute awesome new ideas to your session – they are probably able to generate incremental innovation (but not much more), mostly because they are unwilling to upset the current status quo. The second type of person can see beyond little things like legalities. Sometimes you have to bend or break the current law to innovate.

(BTW, I’m not in any way suggesting that you actually execute on creating a cash shredder or printer – I’m suggesting that you present the concept in a room full of people to identify your true innovators – I’d never suggested that you DO anything illegal, but that doesn’t mean that you have to keep your thoughts to only currently legal things. After all, laws change. Cable companies were illegally stealing content and distributing it for years before they were legalized, and by then they had become near essential.)

So how does that help? In addition to identifying the innovators and the non-innovators among you, it gives your innovators license to tread that edgy ground that many innovations are born in. Pushing the envelope with your idea drives others to follow in your path, and for the bolder ones – exceed your teachings.

This works beyond ideation. When you come into any situation that needs to be disrupted – do that – see what happens. Act different – and see what shakes out:

  • If you are normally passive in a meeting, get assertive
  • If you are normally assertive, say nothing and watch
  • Drop bombs and sit back. I normally hate “devils advocates” but sometimes they trigger new thinking

Next time you are in a situation that you need to dig into and get more out of, try “shaking the box” and see what comes out.

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