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Living Outside the Box

Living Outside the Box

The phrase “thinking outside the box,” as commonly used, is not only a cliche, it’s an oxymoron; because few who have truly considered the meaning of the phrase, really want it.

Thinking outside the box means thinking outside traditional normatives and mores. But normatives and mores are the building blocks for shared communication. They are our way of thinking and behaving. By living inside the borders (created by the the famous “nine dots” puzzle) we are safe and comfortable. To go beyond their borders means “art.” No more, no less. And I include scientific discovery and prophesy in that realm.*

Connect all the dots using four lines, without lifting the pen off the paper. Hint: Think outside the box.

Connect all the dots using four lines, without lifting the pen off the paper. Hint: Think outside the box.

In other words, truly thinking outside the box means Picasso, John Cage, Trio-X, and every 100th student at MIT and CalArts. Being outside the box is strange, unusual, weird, uncanny, awful, smelly, messy and unique. It can also be fantastic, glorious, transcendent – and quite scary and lonely. We know. We’ve been there.**

What most trainers and marketers usually really want is derivative thinking.

Derivatives are not merely instruments of unethical financial behavior. They are based on well-known social conventions, such as TV shows. When BMW commissioned a video for webcast, it is a derivative of broadcast moved to the new medium. Placing videos on YouTube is a synthesis of TV and Americans Funniest Home Movies. These ideas are new, refreshing, fun and not outside the box.

Which is why advertisers long-ago coined the term “edgy,” with, perhaps, an unconscious nod to “the box.” Being “on the edge” can be a metaphor for many potential changes – from emotionally explosive to physical danger. But “edgy” is most often used in ad lingo to describe, I submit, that border between derivative and the truly unique – that which is “outside the box.”

The truly unique

Why should you care? The truly unique is ground-breaking; it evokes an emotional response, sometimes a physical reaction, and occasionally provokes actual thought. Thought, of course, is often unwelcome, and is unnecessary in the Attention stage of adoption-diffusion and advertising. But if the emotion is strong enough – especially if it is positive – it can push a clients brand into instant recognition, and prospects scurrying to discover more.

Being outside the box isn’t for everyone, and deciding how far to go outside the box is fraught with second-guessing. So if you’re thinking of going there, call us for a tour. It’s where we work on many days, before we drive home in our solar powered cars to our cubist homes and minimalist pets.
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*Great authors on the subject include C.P. Snow and Dr. Rudolf Arnheim.

*Sinard has been a consistent early adapter of new – outrageously new, and often unique – technology and art. We were amongst the first to use a new technology called videography in 1970; “interactive” in 1984; digital video editing in 1987; Sandin Image processing in 1990, and Portable Domes in 1997. Have you seen our interactive surfaces and environmental objects?

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