Thinking Outside the Box

By Caroline Njeri I find it embarrassing to ask the people who tell me to think outside the box what they mean by that. Sometimes, I find myself wondering if I was inside the box in the first place. How can one tell if someone is inside or outside the box?I have been told so many times to think outside the box. Apparently, outside the box is where all the great ideas lie. But what does it mean to think outside the box? I have spent many days doing research on this topic, and these are my findings: The box that is referred to is a boundary within our minds that confines what we know only.What lies outside the box is what we do not know, and what we have not thought about. This means that if you want to go outside the box you must search for what you do not know and what you have never thought about. Why should we go outside the box? After all, when we stay inside the box we feel safe and we do not have to risk our reputation among our teachers and friends.Imagine ten years ago, when Safaricom was new and you were the one with the m-pesa idea,you decide to approach Safaricom and ask them to partner with you on this great idea on mobile money. Do you think they would have taken you seriously? Many of the ideas outside the box are new, they challenge the way things are done and what people are used to. If we need to go out of the box, we need to add all little more, something different, something that challenges our environment, something wrong, we need to look far. When is the right time to think outside the box? We must be careful when getting ideas outside the box. These ideas are risky,they might destroy our relationships with people, especially people who do not believe in thinking outside the box. These people can be our bosses,governments or teachers. For us to create an environment that allows people to think outside the box, we must accept wrong answers. No answer is correct,there should be many alternative answers . I approached our very own Mark Kamau,the iHub UX Lab design lead with a few questions on this subject.He shared with me a document that he and the IDEO team created in order to help the world think outside the box, in this case, about design. The document is called Human Centered Designs. If everyone can follow the basic steps in that document, then they will be able to come up with unique solutions that are user centered. Caroline Njeri is a member of the iHub community, a technology enthusiast, an engineer ,on a journey to understand the power of human centered design in the African continent. IllustrationbyLeland Francisco,used under Creative Commons Licence(Flickr)

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