This morning my two year old brought what he called a ‘box’ in to our bedroom. It was in fact a bucket that contained toy musical instruments - you know the type, small plastic pan pipes, a colourful rain stick, a Saxophone shaped whistle, a lollipop shaped device connected to two pieces of string with a bobble on the end that drum the lollipop head when you spin the stick in your hands, an old microphone, a single Maraca, elastic-band connected Castanets, and a couple of infiltrators in the guise of two light plastic balls and a toy motorcycle.
Each of the musical toys were taken out of the bucket and 'played' for perhaps 15 seconds each, which eventually left him with an empty bucket. Naturally, the bucket went on his head. Which caused him to generate his own 'musical' noise and had his eight year old sister come to see what was going on. After the fun in the two them alternately wearing the bucket had run out of steam, it became a receptacle for target practice with the two balls.
If I'd been analysing the child growth potential or even simply the length of time these toys stayed entertaining, the bucket (box) would have won hands down! Just another case of the wrapping paper being more exciting than the now cast aside toy it once wrapped.
But more importantly, the typical adult perspective would have seen the bucket as a container for all the fun important stuff. Earlier this week I attended the Instant MBA workshop run by Nicholas Bate and right at the start, when he's reminding us to start thinking, he showed how we see patterns everywhere and those patterns unconsciously restrict our thinking - after all it's what our brains are fabulous at doing - sorting and categorising the world into understandable chunks.
A simple illustration is the nine-dot puzzle that shows how we need to think out of the box - we see a box, a naturally constraining pattern, so we want to fit the solution into it. For Nicholas of course this was just a side note in the opening of this excellent workshop based on his similarly excellent Instant MBA book - you'll find a version on his blog too which is well worth adding to your subscribed list.
So, if you're in need of a different solution, take a look at your unconscious assumptions - like meetings at work are always organised in a room with a table, chairs & a projector for a minimum of 30 minutes (the default length of an Outlook Calendar invite) - there's a bunch of patterns that tampered with might lead to a different and better outcome!