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Outside the Box Business
By Barton Goldsmith

Los Angeles Business Journal, 26/02/01

Today, thinking "Outside the Box" is not enough. Companies have to live "Outside the Box" in order to create meaningful business change. For example, instead of holding a strategic planning meeting at the home office or in a local hotel, take the entire team to an inspirational and unusual location, Bora-Bora for example. Why? Because your team will think much differently in Bora-Bora than they will in the same familiar surroundings. When one’s entire being is immersed in a different culture, people can’t help but think more creatively and with greater passion.

If planning meetings are continually held in the office, the company will likely get the same thoughts and ideas they have always received. Companies that seek innovation and creativity from their people first set the scene. They hold important meetings, such as strategic planning, team building and problem-solving meetings in a destination and manner that inspires the participants. The result is a shift in perspective, which often produces solutions that were previously not considered. That’s part of living "Outside the Box.

Inventiveness and change are the by-products of seeing things differently. When this happens, possibilities begin to flow. Suddenly new ideas of what companies (or people) want and how to get there reveal themselves. A shift in business perspective can open many doors. Once the door is open, the hard work has been done. Then the risk of stepping through it doesn’t seem quite as scary.

The Facilitator
To maximize contributions and creativity, it’s important for the CEO or top management executives to participate in, but not dominate, the meeting. Why? If the CEO is the facilitator, participants tend to echo the leader’s ideas, and the CEO may unconsciously push his or her own ideas. That format doesn’t encourage living "Outside the Box". In addition, facilitation is a skill that most leaders don’t possess. The facilitator needs to be able to push the meeting forward and free up the CEO to add creativity, not leadership.
What’s the alternative? Hire a pro to run your meeting. Trained facilitators or change management experts help people open their minds to new ideas and new methods that may feel uneasy at first, but are necessary to birth change. In other words, they help meeting participants see things differently and create new and better ideas/goals.

Overcoming Limitations
"The Box" is really a comfort zone. It is where people feel at ease, where they feel safe. There is nothing wrong with feeling comfortable and safe. However, if you look at the accomplishments of great thinkers, business leaders, performers, athletes and artists, you will see they reach the pinnacle of success in their respective fields because they choose to move beyond what was comfortable, what is known. They begin to think differently, which leads them to see things differently and, in turn, to DO things differently. They all have taken risks and stepped out of their comfort zone in order to achieve their goals.

For example, Edison never slept. Instead he took naps, with a rock in his hand! He did this because when he fell from the dream state, where he got his ideas, into deep sleep, the rock would fall and wake him up. He was then able to remember his dreams, and that is how he got the ideas for his many inventions.

Innovation requires high-risk challenges to business. Successful entrepreneurs take risks, and step out of their comfort zones. Whatever the greatest fear, they face it and find ways to walk through it. Consulting with a mentor or a high-level executive coach can help jump that hurtle. Most importantly remember that while there is risk in trying something new, no matter what the outcome, there is no failure. And don’t expect to do it all or right the first time. Even for the most successful, risk taking and tolerance are learned skills. Great leaders don’t prepare to fail, but accept not achieving all their dreams at once, and they never give up. Winston Churchill said, "Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm."

When people are the first to do something new in life, whether it’s a first job, or creating a new product, it usually takes a long time. That also applies to any new venture, whether it is opening a business, selling a company or retiring. New territory is definitely outside the comfort zone even if it’s a lifelong dream. Once navigated, the terrain of a new process becomes familiar and doing it again will become much easier.

Repetition can ease the anxiety of a difficult task. For example, after growing and selling a first business, there is much less anxiety starting and growing the second. The same principle holds true when beginning to think differently. Most successful executives find whatever challenge they accept, they may feel awful and awkward the first time. Yet, the second time they do it, they have more command of the situation. There’s no question that it is uncomfortable venturing into unknown waters. Yet, it is crucial in order to reach new levels in one’s professional and personal life. Remember, the only people who are wrong are those who say, "It can’t be done".

The Idea Zone
In today’s marketplace, a willingness to stretch and to grow is essential. The world is changing rapidly, and a new approach to business and management is necessary to meet the demands of these changing times. Accept the challenge. Go beyond the fray. Step out of your comfort zone, and see the limitless possibilities that exist.

By conquering the very things that terrify people the most, the boundaries literally melt away. Obstacles that have held people back all their lives become steppingstones to a new vision. As people develop new, shared visions, others will follow because of the convictions proponents have. That’s when people experience the exhilaration, freedom and power of the zone outside the box. They are living in the IDEA ZONE. This is where joy, success, creativity and personal power reside.


Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D., has started, grown and sold 3 companies. He is a highly sought after keynote speaker, business consultant, and author, who presents to numerous companies, associations and leaders worldwide. He works regularly with The Young President’s Organization (YPO), The Executive Committee (TEC) and The Council of Growing Companies. Dr. Goldsmith writes for the Los Angeles Business Journal, and is a contributing author to over 70 business publications and trade journals. He can be contacted through his web site at: www.BartonGoldsmith.com or at (818) 879-9996



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