“We’ve got to think outside the box!”  While this is a great mantra to encourage creative problem solving, I recently heard someone wisely say, “First, you’ve got to know what is IN the box.”  Understanding how things work in our industry today is always a pre-requisite to effectively address and execute change.  There can be unintended consequences associated with developing new ideas if the current business environment isn’t taken into consideration. 

Now, to be clear, I’m not discounting ideas from outside the box.  As a matter of fact, some of the best ideas come from those who are unencumbered by the present and are only focused on the desired result. At the IASA conference in Washington, DC, Peter Diamandis discussed exponential thinking ideas that were quite extraordinary and sent the message that companies must evolve through disruptive thinking or die.
As we grow into a new digital and social networking era we face a whole new dynamic that will force us to deal with, and react to, new models. The next generation of customers has different expectations about how they get information and purchase our products. They use a broad spectrum of sources to evaluate our products and services, whether it’s their own networks, groups with similar interests, or information sites developed by others commenting on our products. The environment is creating new ways to market, sell, and expand into new business models. This is where the opportunities for real creativity and unconventional thinking come into play.

How can we better understand this new customer, and where are our opportunities to deliver the right information to help them make informed decisions?  The key for today’s executives is to participate in the social networking environment, not just view it from afar!  We need to experience the mediums in order to understand their power and potential. Likewise, we need to encourage engagement of our new generation of employees with our veteran industry experts. By blending these talents, new and more effective ways to reach your current customers and gain interest from potential new customers will be found.

There are many new opportunities to find those new avenues for change and be first to market with a new product or service.  By combining the power of creative “out of the box” thinking with an open-minded group of today’s experienced knowledge-players, you’ll harness ideas that are both innovative and pragmatic, and be more likely to find the brilliant solution that truly works.