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September 25, 2002

The Box
An On Display contribution



This month's On Display topic is: "Thinking outside the box" has become a cliche. If you think about the box, what's inside your box that's useful?

Gah. If there's one catch phrase that AcronymCo LOVES, it's "think outside the box". Which, to me, means to be innovative, to turn away from the tools and solutions and way of thinking that you're used to. Sometimes it means to grasp at straws, or throw out wild ideas in the hope that someone else who thinks more clearly can reign it in and mould something reasonable out of it.

I don't generally "think outside the box" at home. My home is my box, my box is my home. I'm firmly "inside the box" without even thinking about it - doing things how I generally do them and sticking to the routines that work. It's not so much inflexibility as it is stability and reliability.

Which isn't to say that when I'm at AcronymCo, thinking "outside the box", that I'm not stable or reliable. AcronymCo is a veritable petri dish for the growth of strange-ass ideas that lead to "innovation" and a Divisional Recognition Award ($100 and a plaque. Woo.). I have no problem in actively participating in that mindset, although referring to it as "thinking outside the box" makes me grit my teeth, the same as the phrase "low hanging fruit". Gah again.

Anyway. The inside of my "box" (I keep writing phrases like that, and it sounds nasty. Just ignore it and move along, people, it's not a euphemism.) contains quite a few useful things, that I guess I find hard to let go of when encouraged to "think outside the box" (yee-uck. I'm just going to say "be innovative" from now on). And I guess I don't let go of them - I use the good qualities to exercise my imagination when trying to think of a different path to a solution.

For instance, inside my box is a lot of different experiences. A job in which I've struggled up the career ladder (determination), moving across the country in a 1/2 ton pickup packed with 2 tons of belongings (courage), divorcing a mentally unstable husband (good plain common sense), marrying the right guy (unbelievably good luck), becoming a step-mother (patience), going back to school (self-improvement).

Add to those lofty traits are the useful things handy to everyday life. I'm not a bad cook (follow directions). I'm very responsible with our finances (passable math skills). I can give directions to our house from anywhere in the country (Internet savvy). I plan vacations like nobody's business (organized). I have good friends (I'm therefore a good friend myself).

I guess there are some kinds of things that are "innovative" when compared against my comfort zone. Like making a decision with little information. I just have to do research on all the options or I'll always wonder if I made a wrong move. Just ask Calvin - I've bought books and spent hours on-line researching high blood pressure and high cholesterol, then spend another AGE researching the vitamins and supplements I would force-feed him. We researched forEVER before choosing the truck we would buy. Hell, we even researched the personality traits of the damn kitten's breed before we went to buy him.

Or letting go of being responsible for something. If Calvin suddenly volunteered to take over the checkbook or the grocery shopping and cooking, it would actually be a difficult adjustment for me. One that I could adapt to, I'm sure, but not easily. ;) And when it comes time to turn over a project at work to someone else, I just have to absolutely turn and walk away from it. If I observe how the other person handles the project I'll be fraught with thoughts of how they should do it differently. Even when I sold my last horse, I didn't accept the invitation to "come and visit him, any time", for fear of disagreeing with how they cared for him, or what bit they used on him, or how often they cleaned out their stall, or whatever.

Or doing something in a wildly different way, when the way I've always done it has worked all along. For instance, I would have to be hard pressed indeed to give up Quicken. Or switch to a different website development program other than Homesite. Or fold pairs of socks in half instead of balling them into each other. Or use the flat of a knife instead of a garlic press to mince garlic.

Damn. I'm anal.

Stuck in my ways, I guess. But it seems to be working alright. I'm open to suggestions for improvement. Doesn't mean I'll actually *change* anything (it would have to be a REALLY good reason, and sometimes I can be hard to convince), but I will listen.

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©Laura Charon 2000 - 2002.