Go Deep and Think Outside the Box – Easier Said than Done

I’m sick and tired if hearing “go deep” and “think outside the box”. Anyone who uses this in a speech without specifics, ideas, or examples is not listening to their own advice. These feeble attempts at inspiration may sound good but are simply white noise to the brain.

Going Deep = Details = Data

Think Outside the Box = Different Perspective = New Ideas

I group these together because it’s another case of Quantity x Quality. Going deep means getting more data than ever before (Quantity). Thinking outside the box means processing the data differently (Quality). Both must be improved in order to maximize your product.

Now that we have defined these terms let’s put them into practice. Here is how I approach Going Deep:

Ask the 5 Ws – who, what, when, where, why, and how? Get as much data as you feasibly can in each of these categories. When each of these can be answered with detailed numbers you are making progress.

Who – who makes it, who sells it, who uses it, who is affected, who make up the demographics, etc

What – what is it used for, what does it do/not do well, what is it made of, etc

When – when did it first appear, when will it quit working, when will it change, etc

Where – where is it produced, where is it marketed, where do the materials come from, etc

Why – why does anyone want it, why is it slow, why buy from us, etc

How – how can quality be improved, how can we broaden the audience, etc

There are an infinite number of questions that can be asked of any product or service. Taking a methodical approach like this helps me get a good 360 degree view of an object. Another trick that helps me stay focused is recording everything in excel not word. Numbers are far more precise than words.

Now we have our data let’s put it to work and “Think Outside the Box”. Here’s how I generate new ideas:

Move, Dream, and Write – I prefer to pace back and forth in front of my white boards but pen and paper will get the trick done too.

Move – Thinking takes a lot of energy, get up and pace, put a pot of coffee on, do some pushups, do whatever is necessary to get the blood flowing. Energize your physiology.

Dream – This is where we set free the 8 year old child in all of us. Imaging you are a user, owner, or engineer. Crunch numbers, imagine how being ten times as big would change the data you have. Imagine how a design change would alter the market. What’s it worth if wanted to sell it? Take every crazy thought and work through it with detailed predictions.

Write – Use big markers and big font. If you don’t put things down in writing you will quickly grind to a halt. The only way to keep your mind nimble and jumping from subject to subject is to write this stuff down so you’re not carrying baggage around. Start with simple short phrases that are stubs to bring back the train of thought. As you cool down take those rough notes and type them up on the computer, elaborating a little on each.

Congratulations, now you have something to be proud of. This is how you set yourself apart from your competition.

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