The Wall Street Journal featured our new book, Inside the Box: A Proven System of Creativity for Breakthrough Results (Simon & Schuster), on the front page of the weekend edition. Jacob and I contributed the feature article which is adapted from the book. Here are some excerpts.
When most CEOs hear the word “innovation,” they roll their eyes. It conjures up images of employees wasting hours, even days, sitting in beanbag chairs, tossing Frisbees and regurgitating ideas they had already considered. “Brainstorming” has become a byword for tedium and frustration.
Over the past decade, we have asked senior executives, on every continent and in every major industry, two key questions about innovation. The first: “On a scale of one to 10, how important is innovation to the success of your firm?” The second: “On a scale of one to 10, how satisfied are you with the level of innovation in your firm?”
Not surprisingly, they rate the importance of innovation very high: usually a nine or 10. None disputes that innovation is the No. 1 source of growth. Without fail, however, most senior executives give a low rating—below five—to their level of satisfaction with innovation.
How could business leaders rate innovation as so important yet feel so dissatisfied with their own organization’s performance? Because what they really want to know is how: How do you actually generate novel ideas and do so consistently, on demand.
Here is the premise of Inside the Box:
advocate a radically different approach: thinking inside the proverbial
box, not outside of it. People are at their most creative when they
focus on the internal aspects of a situation or problem—and when they
constrain their options rather than broaden them. By defining and then
closing the boundaries of a particular creative challenge, most of us
can be more consistently creative—and certainly more productive than we
are when playing word-association games in front of flip charts or
talking about grand abstractions at a company retreat.
Inventions can be extraordinary, but invention isn’t an extraordinary event or an activity for a specialized group. Nor is creativity reserved for the gifted and talented. It’s a skill that can be learned and mastered by anyone, if approached properly. Like so much else in life, the more it’s practiced, the more skillful at it we become.
For those of you who have ordered the book, we thank you. And thanks to the many emails, tweets, and comments of support during our first week.