When Thinking Outside the Box Gets Counterproductive
I was recently in a meeting with one of the teams I work with, and throughout the day, I heard people prefacing or justifying a decision with "because we need to do things differently" from the model they're counter-positioning against. It concerned me, but it was a broader strategy and cultural discussion than the context of our meeting allowed for, so I tabled it.
We have to be careful that we don't make thinking outside the box so much of a default that we can't choose anything from inside the box. When we can't choose anything inside the box, it's easy for us to blindly pursue "different for different's sake."
So what? Doing something differently is usually harder than doing it how it's commonly done. And while I'm a big advocate of doing the right things even if they're hard, a bias towards "different for different's sake" is essentially "harder for harder's sake." The world doesn't need any additional help with supplying hard things for us to deal with. While it may seem like I'm just playing logic games again, I've experienced enough bright, creative, and passionate creative people and teams who are exhausted by having to re-create (what seems like) everything to do anything because they've got to be different. Without a range of defaults to base them on, decisions become tentative and up for conversation. The result is predictable: lots of overthinking and talking, significantly less doing, and a healthy dose of decision fatigue to boot. Better to focus on the benefit than on the box.
That way we can use what's in the box when it works for us -- keeping in mind that we can use parts of what's in the box without using all of it -- so we can spend more of our time, energy, and attention on solving the problems that current solutions leave unaddressed. Very few solutions that endure are broken through-and-through, and focusing on the right 15% difference is sometimes all you need to do.
And that gives you 85% of a solution that you don't have to build from scratch. Head starts are a good thing.