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Why Leaders Need to Think Outside the Box

Written by Andy Trainer – Fri 30 May 2008

Good leadership is not just about managing and maintaining what is. Great Leaders need not to be afraid to make mistakes. They need to have the confidence to take risks. Our Leadership Skills training course, will help you develop your outside of the box thinking.

Consider the following quotes:

"640K ought to be enough for anybody." - Bill Gates, 1981, rejecting proposal for larger computer memory.

"We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out." - Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962.

"Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?" - H.M. Warner (Warner Brothers) before rejecting proposal for movies with sound in 1927.

"The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a 'C,' the idea must be feasible." - A Yale University professor in response to Fred Smith's paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service. (Smith went on to found Federal Express Corp.)

"The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?" - David Sarnoff's Associates in rejecting a proposal for investment in the radio in the 1920s.

It is important not to be confined to the present but to look to the future. Organisations today need to be organic, they need to grow and change. When the movie camera was finally accepted and became main stream, the camera did not move! The actors would run around the static camera like the theatre or still camera. The idea that the camera could move around the actors took a while to develop. To see great opportunities you need good leadership skills. Great Leaders look beyond current practises and markets.

Try this test to see if you can think outside the box! - Draw nine dots to make a square - three rows of three. Try and join the nine dots with 4 straight lines.

Do you need 5 lines?

The correct answer is shown here in this diagram.

Did you restrict yourself - impose the restriction that lines cannot go outside the box. Try not to give yourself self-imposed restrictions that prevent you and your organisation from reaching your goals and developing new ideas that will keep the company growing and changing.

This way of thinking is commonly called thinking outside of the box. Inside the box thinkers are very skilled at killing ideas. For example, Charles H. Duell, Director of the US Patent Office, said in 1899, "Everything that can be invented has been invented."

Great leaders think outside the box by displaying the following qualities:

  • Listening to others
  • Supporting others when they come up with new ideas and respecting them
  • Valuing new ideas and not being afraid to act on them
  • Willingness to look at new perspectives to day to day work
  • Openness to different things
  • Openness to doing things differently

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