Having been in business, academics, and missions, I have heard this a lot: “We need to think outside of the box.” (The word “of” is optional.) The expression sometimes seems profound, but sometimes it seems trite and annoying.
Therefore, I really enjoyed an article by Dan Pallotta. I will copy the first two paragraphs from the article, and then you can read the rest on the link below if you wish.
The exhortation to think outside the box has become ubiquitous in business. So much so that it has become the new box inside of which everyone thinks. It pays lip service to the notion of transformation without really understanding the difference between transformation and change, and often without tolerance for the real thinking that must occur for an idea to be truly outside the existing paradigm. But worse than that, the advice is backwards. You cannot possibly think outside the box unless you understand the nature of the box that bounds your current thinking. You must come to know that nature deeply. You must have real insight into it. You must accept it, and embrace it at some level, before it will ever release you.
Sometimes missions has a tendency to embrace “the new” — faddish innovation (at least for those who don’t simply repeat what they have been doing for the last 50 years). I think it is a caution for us.
- We need to understand ourselves, our paradigm of ministry, and the unexamined limitations that we place on ourselves. Our constraints are commonly hidden from our perception. We need to spend considerable time understanding our situation– rather than focusing on “the next new thing.”
- Missions also needs to learn to appreciate the box at times. Artists and design engineers (grudgingly) know this– constraints empower creativity. Sometimes our box may be a source of creativity rather than hampering it.
- Change is not in itself a virtue. As the quote above said, we need to identify the difference between change and transformation. We shouldn’t do something different because we think that new must be better than old, change must be an improvement, or that tradition is ineffectual. That is the path to creating a new box… a new mediocrity.
Article: STOP THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX