A Guide to Dysfunctional Management and the Evil Workplace
July 5th, 2012 by William

Try to Think Inside the Box

Isn’t it somewhat disheartening that business hasn’t essentially changed the way it’s been run in a century? Modern business is (and probably always will be) hierarchical, vertically organized, autocratic, political, fiefdom rich and meeting centric. Add to that the fact that most businesses suffer a lack of substantive communication flowing from the top to the bottom of the organization. Ironically, many companies actually realize that they are mired down in the ways of the past. This is evident by the endless preaching of the tired old buzz-phrase; “think outside the box.” Companies tell their employees they must do this as a way to somehow miraculously break free of the old ways of the past and invent something new. However, this is little better than wishful thinking. If an organization truly wants to transform itself into something fresh and new−and remarkable, it should be encouraging its employees to “think inside the box” instead.

In his book The Gifted Boss: How to Find, Create and Keep Great Employees, Dale Dauten reminds us that, “to get to better, you must go through different.” And to be different companies must first come to grips with their current situation and limitations−their skeletons in the closet. Before you can plan on how to get to where you want to be, you must first know where you are. Thus, to truly change−to go through different−companies must soul-search to find ways to reinvent the way they’re currently doing day-to-day business. Otherwise they remain stuck in the status-quo−doing things the way they always have. Thus, the real issue isn’t whether people are thinking outside the box but whether they should be thinking inside the box. Thinking inside the box is about going back to the basics and rethinking the way you do business on a daily basis.

Unfortunately I fear nothing will change in the next century, because most organizations, by their very nature, are change-averse. It’s tough to get significant, game winning, changes through most organizations.

In their book Rework, Jason Fried & David Hansson address this issue and make the point that most organizations can’t really change because it’s too expensive. By this they mean that as a company grows it increases its mass. You’ve heard the term ‘critical mass.’ Organizations achieve their version of critical mass and the bigger the mass the harder and more expensive it is to change. According to Hansson and Fried, the typical things that contribute to increasing mass are (to name a few);

  • Excess staff
  • Crippling Meetings
  • Thick, deep processes and procedures
  • Inventory
  • Long and complex roadmaps (vision) to the future
  • Office politics

In their words; “the bigger you are the harder to pivot.”

When you add to the above the typical short-term obsession management has over revenue and profit you’re left with an atmosphere that’s highly change averse. Of course, the worst of all the above maladies just might be office politics. In my book, Puttin’ Cologne on the Rickshaw, I dedicate an entire chapter to how office politics can cripple an organization, so of all the organizational liabilities above politics might be the single most powerful inhibitor to change in the workplace.

“Thinking inside the box” is all about understanding and changing/removing the above laundry list of inhibitors to change. Until an organization can shed some mass and cut the politics there’s not much chance that “thinking outside the box” will change anything, so start your own revolution by “thinking inside the box.”


3 Responses to “Try to Think Inside the Box”
  1. Anonymous says

    So cool…

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  2. Russell Goldman says

    Thanks for the post.

  3. Marlena Kullman says

    Thanks for the post.

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