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Cardboard Playhouse

Dr. Foster Mobley // Business, Quotables, Wisdom Leading

Recently, a friend told me how he asked furniture delivery men to leave a large cardboard box at his home so his daughters could turn it into a playhouse. Sure enough, his girls and their cousin fell on that box with tape and markers and imagination, turning it into a whimsical cabin that they slept in for several warm summer nights. This got me to thinking about scarcity and how it can be one of the best stimulants for imagination. Think back to your own childhood. How many times did you turn a refrigerator or washing machine box into a spaceship or racecar? You didn't have controllers, screens or an Internet connection. You had scissors, paint, and your imagination. And you worked wonders! What's to stop you from doing the same thing today? I've written that winning often makes teams forgetful and complacent. Well, the availability of resources often makes teams and departments lazy. Have a problem? Throw some money at it! But money doesn't solve problems; imaginative, innovative thinking does. Ironically, we call that sort of thinking "outside the box." However, pause to consider how a little "inside the cardboard box" thinking would serve us better. Next time you're trying to pin down a hard-to-find solution, get out your cardboard box. Ask your team, "What could we do if we didn't have a budget?" You'll be startled by the creativity of the answers. How can you stimulate "inside the box" imagination on your team?

Recently, a friend told me how he asked some furniture delivery men to leave a large cardboard box at his home so his daughters could turn it into a playhouse. Sure enough, his girls and their cousin fell on that box with tape and markers and imagination, turning it into a whimsical cabin that they slept in for several warm summer nights. This got me to thinking about scarcity and how it can be one of the best stimulants for imagination.

Think back to your own childhood. How many times did you turn a refrigerator or washing machine box into a spaceship or racecar? You didn't have controllers, screens or an Internet connection. You had scissors, paint, and your imagination. And you worked wonders! What's to stop you from doing the same thing today?

I've written that winning often makes teams forgetful and complacent. Well, the availability of resources often makes teams and departments lazy. Have a problem? Throw some money at it! But money doesn't solve problems; imaginative, innovative thinking does. Ironically, we call that sort of thinking "outside the box." However, pause to consider how a little "inside the cardboard box" thinking would serve us better. Next time you're trying to pin down a hard-to-find solution, get out your cardboard box. Ask your team, "What could we do if we didn't have a budget?" You'll be startled by the creativity of the answers.

How can you stimulate "inside the box" imagination on your team?

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Dr. Foster Mobley

Trusted advisor and coach to admired executives globally for 3 decades, Thought leader on wisdom-based approaches to breakthrough leading, "Lead Coach" for Deloitte's experienced and high potential leader development, Team performance advisor to two NCAA championship teams