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What 'Box' are you in?


We are often encouraged to “think outside the box”, but the instruction for the most part goes unchallenged, or its meaning assumed. So what does the phrase actually mean? Below are four interpretations of the “box mindset theory”, and how they may be adopted by our colleagues:

  • Thinking inside the box

The Follower – The most common of all thinking approaches. It assumes the comfort zone approach to life and accepts that there are rules which must be followed. Inside the Box candidates do just enough to satisfy life’s challenges, or in some cases fall short of requirements, but make do. Being risk averse is safe, and sacrifice is unnecessary in order to achieve goals set inside the box. This mindset is by its very nature restrictive, and creates an environment lacking in any opportunity to develop or grow. It evolves into a lifestyle dominated by routine, resulting in boredom, frustration and an inability to see opportunity for, or achievement of, any real progress. The resulting feeling may be one of being stuck in a rut, or literally constrained within the perimeters of a box.

  • Identify the box and thinking outside it

The Visionary – Planning comes naturally to this type of individual, and they will both consciously and subconsciously plan throughout their daily lives. The plans will identify with what the box constrains are, and then contemplate what actions may be required to push the boundaries a little, to the benefit of the outcome. An “outside the boxer” will often discuss plans with others, using sounding boards, and will be somewhat insomniac as a result of excitement generated by the prospect of their plans taking shape. However these thinkers will often lack action or motivation to implement for the fear of, or reluctance to, relinquish the vision of a plan acted upon.

  • Create your own box

The Influencer – A creative flair is the characteristic driving box creators. They are acutely aware of the “rules”, and how these may be reviled by others, but will have a vision of a concept that may not be considered orthodox, and will have a desire to influence others to their way of thinking, encouraging them to enter the newly created box, and to adopt the vision that box represents. The Influencer box will have been scrutinized from inside and out, and from various angles as part of the creation, and adjusted to accommodate others. By way of example, think of Apple Corporation. They have shaped the world by enticing people into their uniquely designed box.

  • Think like there is no box

The Leader – There are very few individuals in this category, and they represent those who will not accept that their thinking is limited to a box, but are hungry to evolve, grow and learn in any environment they find themselves in, constantly questioning and testing boundaries. They may be considered similar to the Visionary in some ways, however unlike the Visionary; they act on their thoughts, implementing plans and goals. These actions then manifest or lead to new thoughts, ideas and visions, oblivious to artificial or actual boundaries. They are highly creative in their thinking, and like leaders will come up with ideas, solutions and goals that may initially appear “off the wall” to the Follower, Visionary and Influencer. They do not create a box as in the Apple scenario, but always try to stay ahead of others, constantly changing track as new boundaries are presented, challenging all that is in their path, and pushing back on “it can’t be done” constraints. Arnold Schwarzenegger is a true Leader demonstrating his ability to conquer the worlds of elite athlete/bodybuilder, actor, and US Senator, refusing to accept that boundaries to entry in any of these careers exist.


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