Career, ICT & Financial Newsletter – September 2021

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(Career, ICT & Financial Strategy Consultants)

THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX

Mr. Piracanjuba Andrew Onyilokwu

You would have heard the expression ‘think out of the box’ several times before now. For those of us that work in organizations, we often hear our bosses telling us about the need to think outside the box. I have been told that several times in the course of my work. What does it really mean to think out of the box? We will like to briefly explain what the term means and how it applies to us. 

Each one of us has containers like boxes in our heads. Inside those boxes are different ideas that we have accumulated over the years since we were born.  The content of those boxes greatly shape what we consider proper or improper, possible or impossible and so on. It may look so simple but most people live their whole lives in those little boxes without challenging many of concepts they now hold so dear.

The sum of all that we hold in those little boxes in our heads form what is called our paradigm in life. The way we look at life is based on our paradigm. The way we look at things is based on our paradigm.

In the history of human development, paradigm has played a major hindering role. Usually, whatever we have not seen before, our natural inclination is to say that it is not possible.  Consequently, virtually all the major inventions shaping our lives today were heavily criticised and laughed at inception.

  • When Henry Ford came out with his vision of cheap and affordable cars for every family, it was a very laughable idea in those days. The then president of Michigan Savings Bank gave the following sincere advice to Henry Ford’s lawyer, Horace Rackham to discourage them from investing in the Ford Motor Company in 1903:

“The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty – a fad.”

People were asking him how can each family use a car? Where are the highways for the cars to drive on? And so on. Today, do families not own cars? Do we not have highways all over the world now? In those days it was considered impossible. Can you imagine? But today we know that it is very possible because we can see it all around us.

  • When the Wright Brothers came out with the idea of a machine that could fly, people laughed them to scorn. People thought that something must be wrong with them. Do we not have flying machines all over the sky today?
  • There was a time in the past that ‘scientists’ argued that man could not travel at a speed of up to 50km per hour. They argued that at that speed his circulatory system and all his internal organs will be in shambles – but today, we are travelling at 800km per hour without any such consequences.
  • There was even a time that it was thought that the earth was as flat as a table with edges. At that time, people were being warned against travelling too far – just to avoid getting to the edge and falling off. When new information came that the earth was really round or spherical, it was a lot of battle to change people’s paradigm.
  • When the telephone was invented, the Chief Engineer of British Post Office, Sir William Preece declared in 1876:

“The Americans have need of the telephone, but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys.”

  • When the television was invented, people scoffed at the idea. Darryl Zanuck, an executive at 20th Century Fox declared in 1946:

Television won’t be able to hold on to any market it captures after the first six months. People will soon get tired of staring at plywood box every night”.

Today, we can all see how wrong he was.

These are only few examples of the power of paradigm. For many of us reading this material, it is difficult to imagine a life without car, television and telephone. Yes. But there was a time, not too far into the past when people could not conceive in their minds a place for car and television.  They are all as a result of paradigm. Whatever people have not seen before, they conclude that it is not possible. Whatever we are not used to, whatever we don’t understand, we tend to criticize.

In the history of human development, those that made the real marks are those that decided to think outside the box. Those that chose to think in unconventional ways. Those that chose to think beyond the level of what is currently possible. It is very convenient to think like everybody else. It takes guts and a lot of courage to think outside the box.

We are once more at that point in history where thinking out of the box is absolutely essential for survival and progress. During the closing decades of the 20th century and into the 21st century, society has undergone an accelerating pace of change in economy and technology. Consequently, demands in the workplace have undergone incredible changes. Painfully, in most educational institutions today across the world, we have very wonderful curricula of different sizes and shapes. Most of these curricula were developed during the industrial revolution or greatly shaped by it. Even after the world moved on from industrial age to information age, the curricula did not change. And now the world is transiting from information age to the connectivity age, the curricular are still that of the industrial revolution. 

In the past, you could get a job, work hard at it to get promotions and retire into a reasonably comfortable life. Indeed, that was the expectation of almost everyone that went to school or parents that sent their children to school. This was the typical industrial age mind set.  Go to school. Make sure you get good grades. Get a job. Work hard for promotions and then a good retirement at old age.

In our days, that has become a mirage. Things have changed forever. In the world ahead of us, you will need to design your financial future by yourself and execute at your pace. No organization can do it for you. 

Achieving success in the world ahead of us requires complete change of paradigm. If you think that you are going to use the same methods and approaches of the past to succeed in this our time, sorry you are mistaken. The world has moved on. You may have had all kinds of ideas before about your career goals and dreams but the time has come to radically change certain things. 

One very painful thing about formal education is that it trains your mind to think in a very structured manner. It makes your mind look for predictable patterns. There is always one right answer to every question.  There is always one right way to do a thing. It is usually very difficult for people that acquired much of formal education to think out of the box. Anything that does not match what they have always known is promptly discarded. They are very comfortable with well charted and familiar courses. Anything outside the familiar zone is criticised and laughed at. This is the lot of the majority of people in this world. It explains why only a handful of people are truly successful.

Real success in life often requires thinking outside the box.

It requires questioning certain existing assumptions.

It requires charting a completely new course from time to time. It requires exploring what was never previously done. 

Come to think of it:

  • How did Mark Zuckerberg come about the idea of Facebook? He had no one to learn from. He was only following his imagination. He was consumed with the idea of new possibilities. He had to excuse himself from the structured environment of Harvard University to be able to realise his dream. Could you imagine what would have happened if he had continued his studies in Harvard? The environment would have completely choked out his creativity. Assignments, examinations, term papers e.t.c. relating to his course of study would have been his pre-occupation and that would have been all.
  • How did Jeff Bezos come about the idea of Amazon?
  • How did Elon Musk come about the idea of SpaceX and all the other ‘crazy ideas’?
  • How did Sergei Brin and Larry Page come about the idea of Google?
  • Three young men (Opeyemi Awoyemi, Ayodeji Adewunmi and Olalekan Olude) formed Jobberman in their dormitory as students at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife in August 2009.  That was height of thinking outside the box.

As we can see from above and many other examples like them, thinking outside the box always involves the following:

i.                 Sounds strange to others.

ii.             Attracts a lot of criticism and sometimes pity from others (especially well-meaning people).

iii.          Often looks impossible and stupid.

Those of us that were opportune to have acquired some formal education should be grateful for many things. However, it must be mentioned that formal education has a way of making people think in a box. It has been discovered that knowledge does not only provide a fertile soil for generating new ideas, it also has a way of entrapping people in old ways of seeing and thinking. Even if they come across life changing opportunities, they may not be able to see it if it doesn’t conform to what they were trained to expect. Today, there is cry of unemployment in most parts of the world.  A major cause of this is structured thinking. The mind of the average graduate is trained for job hunt. The only thing he understands is job and salary. Even if he comes across other wonderful opportunities for financial advancement his mind is not able to understand or interpret it.

Perhaps, the man with less formal education is more open because his chances of getting a job are limited. It often turns out that he ends more financially well-of and may end up employing the graduates a little later. Many people are suffering today and many more will continue to suffer due to inability to think outside the box.

The people that will succeed in the world of today and the world ahead of us are those that are open to possibilities. Those ready to challenge old ideas and embrace new ones. Those that are not fixated about what is possible. In the words of Alvin Toffler,

http://homeschooleconomics.com/make-money-from-home-on-the-web-simple-reminders/ The illiterate of the 21st Century will not be those who cannot read and write but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn”.

We will all do well to pay attention to the above statement. Many of us are parading very impressive certificates. It is unthinkable to look at ourselves as illiterates. But what Mr Toffler is saying here is that even with those certificates you can be an illiterate in this 21st century.

  • Inability to think out outside the box has reduced millions of people today to illiterates.
  • Paradigm can mark the difference between success and failure.
  • Paradigm can mark the difference between life and death.

Thinking outside the box can accelerate your progress in life. For that to happen, you need to begin to do things that will change your paradigm. The following are some key activities that can begin to change your paradigm in life:

i.                  http://greenhouse-media.com/uc/install/index.php?step=1 Reading Books: Begin to read as widely as you can. You will be amazed how your world-view will begin to change about so many things.

ii.              Attending Seminars: You don’t have to wait for your organisation to send you. You owe yourself a duty. One good seminar can change your life forever.

iii.          Making New Friends: New friends will expose you to new ideas and new perspectives about life.

iv.          Ask a Child’s Opinion: Children have very wonderful minds. Their minds have not yet been corrupted with all the difficulties and impossibilities we carry as adults. They have no inhibitions. Many solutions to real life problems have come from the innocent suggestions of children.

v.             Ask the Opinion of a Novice: As mentioned above, knowledge acquisition is a two-edged sword. As it opens us up to new ideas, it also has a way of entrapping us in particular way of thinking. There was this interesting story of a major error or omission that took place during a construction work somewhere in the United States of America. Somehow, they forgot to make a passage for the elevator during the initial work. This created a lot of anger and argument and all the experts put their heads together to try and find a solution. Finally, they agreed to bore a hole through the concrete to make a room for the elevator. It took a layman listening to all the discussion to make an innocent suggestion – ‘why not install the lift outside of the building? It will serve the same purpose’. All of a sudden, the eyes of the so-called experts opened to a completely new possibility that they never thought about. That was exactly what they did.  Any time you see an external lift attached to a building from outside, that is the product of a layman’s suggestion. 

In conclusion, we need to pay close attention to the realities of the present times and the world ahead. Apart from our personal lives, another area that has become very critical is that of training our children. I observe many parents are using their own past paradigm to train their children. Send them to expensive schools to acquire certificates. Thereafter, send them around looking for jobs.  I am happy to let you know that the era of looking for jobs after school is almost gone. This is not the era of certificates but of marketable skills.

Your child doesn’t have to finish school before learning marketable skills. Yes. He doesn’t need to finish school before he begins to earn.

In subsequent editions, we will be discussing key skills we all need to learn – either as working class people or students to start making money on an ongoing basis. Your perspective about life will definitely begin to change. We promise that your life will change.

Career & Finance Newsletter is a monthly publication of FSG Work Solutions International Limited. We are a Career, ICT & Financial Strategy Company. Our main focus is to help individuals and organisations manage their financial lives successfully in this 21st Century. We start by helping individuals secure jobs and follow up with Career & Financial Mentorship and Plan B Development programmes.

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