Thinking INSIDE the Box

Today’s Affirmation:
Million dollar ideas are as common as grass. My million dollar idea is coming to me today.

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How inventive are you? Do you see a roadblock or an opportunity when you encounter a challenge? When your million dollar idea comes along will you recognize it or dismiss it as crazy?

Innovation is not always miraculous. Sometimes it’s simplicity. It’s born of necessity and an otherwise ordinary idea meeting in the right time and place.

We’re all constantly told to “think outside the box” when we need to be creative. Sometimes, though, innovation requires us to think inside the box.

They say necessity is the mother of invention. Japanese grocers had a problem. Their stores are much smaller than American stores and so space is limited. Watermelons take up a lot of room and they don’t stack neatly in a tight space.

A natural response would be to say that watermelons are round and that’s just the way it is. However, Japanese farmers decided that if the grocers needed square watermelons they would come up with a way to do it. As it turns out, watermelons will grow in the shape of a square when they are planted in a square box.

Japanese consumers, who also have smaller refrigerators, loved the new watermelons. Farmers were able to sell the melons at premium prices. Everyone won.

At the bottom of the e-mail, its originator offered some outstanding analysis that benefits all of us when confronting a challenging issue.

  • Don’t assume: The major problem was that most people had always seen round watermelons so they automatically assumed that square watermelons were impossible before even thinking about the question. Things that you have been doing a certain way your entire life have taken on the aura of the round watermelon and you likely don’t even take the time to consider if there is another way to do it. Breaking yourself from assuming this way can greatly improve your overall life as you are constantly looking for new and better ways to do things. This was one of the most difficult things for me to do because most of the assumptions I make, I don’t even realize that I’m making them. They seem perfectly logical on the surface, so I have to constantly make an effort to question them.
  • Question habits: The best way to tackle these assumptions is to question your habits. If you can make an effort to question the way you do things on a consistent basis, you will find that you can continually improve the way that you live your life. Forming habits when they have been well thought out is usually a positive thing, but most of us have adopted our habits from various people and places without even thinking about them. I have changed a large number of habits that I have had after taking the time to question them and continue to do so. Some of them I have know idea where they came from while others I can trace to certain people or instances in my life. It’s a never ending process, but by doing this, you can consistently strive toward making all aspects of your life more enjoyable instead of defaulting to what you have now.
  • Be creative: When faced with a problem, be creative in looking for a solution. This often requires thinking outside the box. Most people who viewed this question likely thought they were being asked how they could genetically alter water melons to grow square which would be a much more difficult process to accomplish. By looking at the question from an alternative perspective, however, the solution was quite simple. Being creative and looking at things in different ways in all portions of your life will help you find solutions to many problems where others can’t see them. I am not a creative person, but I’ve found that the more that you look at things from different perspectives, the more creative I have become. It’s a learned art and builds upon itself.
  • Look for a better way: The square watermelon question was simply seeking a better and more convenient way to do something. The stores had flagged a problem they were having and asked if a solution was possible. It’s impossible to find a better way if you are never asking the question in the first place. I try to ask if there is a better way of doing the things that I do and I constantly write down the things I wish I could do (but currently can’t) since these are usually hints about steps I need to change. Get into the habit of asking yourself, “Is there a better way I could be doing this?” and you will find there often is.
  • Impossibilities often aren’t: If you begin with the notion that something is impossible, then it obviously will be for you. If, on the other hand, you decide to see if something is possible or not, you will find out through trial and error.   Take away the lessons from the square watermelons and apply them to all areas in your life (work, finances, relationships, etc) and you will find that by consistently applying them, you will constantly be improving all aspects of your life.

The famed starfleet captain Jean-Luc Picard once said, “Something is only impossible until it’s not.” Square watermelons are not impossible and neither, more than likely, is your challenge. You just need to look with a fresh pair of eyes. And whether in or out of the box, let your spirit of invention lead you to success.

Be peaceful Be positive Be prosperous!

Ray Davis
for 6 Sense Media

This article originally appeared on The Affirmation Spot blog April 11, 2008.