About boxes, being inside or out

An elderly couple was asked what the secret to their long marriage was. The woman was quick to reply. It is all about who makes which decisions. I let my husband make all the big decisions like what should happen to the exchange rates and the how the Prime Minister should change our foreign policy, and which wars we should fight. I make all the little decisions like where we live, what school the kids go to and who our friends are.

We are often told to think outside the box. In fact, I pride myself on my abilities in this regard. But it is not all it is cracked up to be.

  • We live in boxes.
  • We drive in boxes.
  • We give gifts in boxes.
  • We work in boxes.
  • We retail in boxes.

One day we will be carried out of this world in a box.

Boxes are unavoidable. The box presents reality as much as it presents parameters and constraints and to deny them is to deny reality. We can’t perpetually want to live and work and ‘innovate’ our way outside the box. Boxes are there for a reason.

Does that mean we have to accept the constraints of the status quo? Does it mean we must be happy with our ‘lot’?

There are two strategic options: accepting the reality of being in a box or rejecting the constraints and living outside the box. Which is the right option?

The simple answer is that both are right.

When the edges of the box are defined by uncontrollable events and unchangeable circumstances, then living within the box, dealing with that reality and ‘making do’ is the smart approach. Becoming efficient within those constraints (despite those constraints) is the key.

When the edges of the boxes are arbitrary constraints; especially those that are deemed to have always been ‘like’ that’ then they should be challenged and pushed. Don’t let tradition or fear define the edges of your strategy, nor let that determine what you are capable of.

The place to live, work and find success is inside the box and outside the box. The real challenge is knowing when to focus on the inside and when to focus on the outside. In the context of running a retail business, there are certain times when working inside the box is required. The obvious ones are:

  • Minimum wage
  • GST on overseas purchases (lack of)
  • Interest rates
  • Competitor strategy (less obvious perhaps)

The areas where you can (and should) constantly innovate and push the boundaries are for instance:

  • Promotions
  • Displays
  • Channels
  • Customer service

The problem is not that people don’t know when to think inside or outside the box. The problem is that people believe ONE way is always the answer.

Whilst our focus (at Ganador) is the provision of solutions for creating teams/companies that are totally focussed on customer service, and everyone knows how important that is, we are the first to admit that great customer experiences are not the only thing that matters.

Sometimes you must think inside the box and sometimes outside. It is NEVER only one right way, sometimes it is both and sometimes it is neither.