Monday, April 09, 2007

There Is No Box

Here is a concept that came to me a while back when I started my own product development company, Innovatium: "There Is No Box"

The reference, of course, is to "out of the box thinking." That was practically a mantra at a previous company. At the time it was a good mantra. Engineers had a tendency to look at a problem from their perspective and apply to it their known solutions. The Out Of The Box mantra helped to express that, as engineers, we needed to push ourselves out of our comfort zone for more creative solutions that would benefit our customers.

For example, did we really need a $24,000 multi-card computer when two $4,000 PC's networked together would do the trick? We came up with all sorts of new things following that mantra.

However, it's not enough.

The typical problem we encountered (and I lived it at multiple companies and through multiple projects) was that we were thinking outside of the engineering box, but within another box. We often failed to understand our customer, their business, their priorities, their fears, and other critical factors.

What I learned from running my own company is that there is no box, so don't go climbing into one. You are not beholden to following the "way things are done". There are problems to solve and there is creative thinking to solve those problems. Ignore good experience at your peril, but don't limit yourself to doing things the way they worked last time just because it worked last time.

Remember, remarkable things are not often accomplished by mediocre people. If you want to accomplish something remarkable, you need to be willing to risk yourself in the pursuit of that thing. Just stay focused on the goal -- creating something remarkable for your customer -- and don't get fettered by someone else's ideas about How It Must Be Done.