Inventive Thinking: Don't Think About the Box at All

“Think outside the box.”

You’ve heard it a million times. When everyone in the field is zigging, zagging can help you stand out in an over-saturated one-size-fits-all market. The Mini Cooper’s “big” debut during a time of ever-expanding SUV cabins is a memorable example.

But even reactionary stances like these pale in comparison to truly creative approaches.

Sometimes the right answer isn’t inside or outside the box.

Sometimes the box just doesn’t matter.

Case in point (and drag and pinch)

Look at the world of cellular phones and smart devices circa 2006. Designers were in virtual fisticuffs over having the most precise input methods possible. People in the Palm and Windows Mobile camps were devoted to the stylus for natural, pinpoint input. RIM and most other manufacturers doubled down on physical keyboards because they didn’t require additional accessories.

Maybe Palm was the one “inside the box”. Maybe it was RIM.

But Apple ditched the box and went off to play with a more sophisticated toy: its touch-only iPhone.

Why let hardware handle the task of precision when software could do the heavy lifting? Why not free users from accessories while still allowing them to work with a familiar QWERTY interface? And why force users to splice pixels for accuracy when touch estimation is good enough for 90% of mobile tasks anyway?

In retrospect, this all seems obvious. But at the time, most companies were so busy obsessing over a very confining box –precision– they couldn’t understand that the box itself was limiting their scope.

But it wasn’t just the feature they rethought; Apple’s research included broadening its scope to a wider user base as well. See, precision mattered to business users who needed to modify Excel sheets on the go, but casual cell phone owners needed something with a smaller learning curve. Touch could bridge the difficulty gap and in so doing pull the masses into what was previously a niche product market.

Keeping your eyes open

The next time your business is at a junction, don’t feel forced to choose between inside/outside, A/B, yes/no. The best answer probably isn’t a predefined checklist item (and if it were, you’re going to be fighting the competition tooth and nail for that creative space anyway). Take a break from your routine, go over the data with fresh eyes, and come back with a solution that can’t be boxed… or unboxed.

Ripen Services:

At Ripen, the box serves us. Our custom web designs can be built from the ground up or modified from out-of-the-box templates. Using unique ecommerce solutions, we create gorgeous pages, captivating content, and intuitive navigation. See our full list of services.


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