An Ode to Thinking Inside the Box

Celebrations of the ability to think outside the box are thick on the ground, as are explanations of how to boost your own creativity. But what's more rare -- and perhaps more useful to those of us who work in the real world of constraints and scarcity -- is an ode to thinking inside the box. Recently Stuart Foster, writing on blog The Lost Jacket, gave us just that.

So is Foster singing the praises of those who just stubbornly stick to what they know? Of course not. When he applauds inside the box thinking, he's celebrating the truest form of innovation -- that which occurs with limited resources and within real world constraints:

Anyone can create something amazing when they aren't confined by the burdens of execution and reality. True geniuses, create something amazing with the tools and restrictions that they are given.

This process of refining, strengthening and working around obstacles is what separates people who get paid to think creatively and those that just think they can.

As Frank Lloyd Wright is reported to have said, "man built most nobly when limitations were at their greatest." And he's not the only creative professional to recognize that constraints can spur creativity -- from haiku to sonatas, artists throughout the ages have accepted stringent rules, knowing that the challenge of working within limitations can actually free up innovative power. All of which is a long winded way of saying, stop bitching about the resources you don't have or the idiocy of the brief you've been given and learn to revel in thinking inside that box.

(Image of man literally thinking inside the box by nate steiner, CC 2.0)