Beyond the Box

BoxThe very existence of flamethrowers proves that sometime, somewhere, someone said to themselves, ‘You know, I want to set those people over there on fire, but I’m just not close enough to get the job done. – George Carlin

Among the overused metaphors about progress, invention, and career advancement is the one about expanding your mental margins by “thinking outside the box.” While it’s certainly true that unconventional approaches throughout history have given us a broad spectrum of time and labor-saving devices, the memo that way too many people seem to miss is the fact that before you can start breaking the rules, you have to first learn what those rules actually are.

In other words, have you ever spent time in that box you’re trying to bust out of?

In an earlier generation, it was called “paying your dues” and “learning the ropes.” It was about listening to mentors, participating in hands-on training, making trial-and-error mistakes, and identifying the academic credentials and skill sets required to climb the ladder and achieve success. That was then. This is now. A now in which an entire population feels entitled to demand that we allow them to bypass all of the recommended reading, placement exams and entry-level jobs and not only be installed at the top of the class but also on the very top rung of that competitive corporate ladder. While more opportunities exist today than yesterday for young people to chase whatever dreams beckon, there’s a clear and disconcerting disconnect in appreciating the efforts of the dreamers – and hard work – that all came before and made those opportunities possible.

Whether it’s the intern who expects a corner office on her first day, the new busboy who tells the chef, “Cooking doesn’t look that hard – why not just let me take a spin in the kitchen tonight?” or the aspiring young screenwriters who eschew the strict industry protocols of formatting, we’re faced with an escalating mindset of individuals determined to reinvent a wheel just for the sake of reinvention, of being different, of making a statement. If it’s your quest to develop a more efficient car, to improve health care delivery, or to write a boffo movie plot no one has ever seen before, we say, “Bravo!” We also say, though, that you first judiciously study existing vehicles inside-out, pinpoint specific deficiencies in current health care programs, and watch a century worth of films before you proclaim that your premise of a cute extraterrestrial getting left behind by the mother ship and making friends with kids in suburbia is an original concept that people should pay attention to.

In a nutshell, you must know what has already been done before you can lay any claim as to how to do it better.

Here is this month’s exciting lineup of guest blogs:

Stop Writing for Web Crawlers and Write for Readers – by Amandah Blackwell

The Psychology of PR: Tips and Tricks about Why People Like What They Like – by Mickie E. Kennedy

Social Media Marketing Checklist for Your Next Trade Show – by Richard Larson

The 5 Things to Avoid in Your Next Web Conference – by Carrie Wynne