Have you ever heard the saying, “Be creative – think outside the box?”  Well, I’m going to challenge that premise…I think to be creative and collaborative we need to think “inside the box!”

Think about it…in every decision and problem resolution, there is a ‘box’ we need to work with.   This box is the parameters or constraints that we need to solve the problem within.  It ‘frames’ the parameters and our possibilities.

problem box

Here’s how it works:  Place the defined problem or decision needed in the middle of the box and then identify the four sides:

  1. Time/Schedule
  2. Resources – financial, people, etc.
  3. Participation – the mental bandwidth and energy you need from others involved
  4. Quality –  the qualitative expectation

Your solution needs to be found WITHIN those parameters.  They make up your box.  And if one of the sides of the box changes, the others must change as well! You need to keep your ‘box’ squared up.

How do you use this concept in sales?  An example for you:

We sell training, consulting and HR services for companies.  Our client asked us to submit a proposal to solve their problem of lower sales results from their sales team. The solution we identified collaboratively included 4 components.  To deliver the 4 components included :

  1. a schedule for delivery,
  2.  resoruces of people and dollars,
  3. a need for time with key internal stakeholders and
  4.  qualitivate expectations

When reviewing the proposal, the owner identified that the schedule needed to changed and timeline shortened.  Could that be accommodated?  In using the four sides of the box on  a flipchart, together we identified that if the timeline shortned, the other pieces that would need to change.  He didn’t want quality affected. He didn’t want to spend more money, so what he needed to do was to provide a higher level of participation to make it happen.

Without the box as a reference point and consideration, the discussion might have been much more difficult.

We regularly use the ‘box’ in our discussions.  It keeps a focus on collaborative selling as this is something that is transparent and easily shared.

How can you apply it in yours?  You can use the box for:

  • problem solving
  • brainstorming
  • looking at project delivery realistically
  • Collaboration

What other applications do you see application for the ‘box’?  Please leave a comment. Let’s build our ideas for ‘thinking inside the box!’

p.s. A special Thanks to Arpad Hevizi of Celestica. In our discussion today he ‘evolved’ the use of the box and the ‘participation’ parameter was his contribution. Thanks Arpad!