Start With The Box
The quote “Before you can think out of the box, you have to start with a box” by choreographer Twyla Tharp is one of my favourite academic mantras, although I prefer to think of starting with ‘the’ box. Knowing the basics is one of the most important principles in any discipline, if one wants to break the rules it is important to know what they are in the first place.
This is a sentiment I try to convey at the beginning of each of my first year classes: this module is there to teach my students the basics of academic research and essay writing. Later on they might be able to break these rules, sometimes with great success, but it is important to know them in the first place!
When I made this academic mantra card, I also made a version that folded up into an origami box.
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You might be interested in reading ‘Inside the Box’ by Drew Boyd and Jacob Goldenberg. They convincingly debunk ‘outside the box’ thinking in favour of working inside your familiar world, with the aid of five thinking ‘tools’. I’ve been using Systematic Inventive Thinking (SIT) for innovation, with my students this term (Creativity, Innovation and Invention course). Of the five tools Boyd and Goldenberg offer, we found the ‘subtraction’ tool particularly interesting: you consider the components of a product or service and then mentally remove one of its essential components and consider what new possibilities are generated. The results were surprisingly good. I’m hoping to write an article about the relationship between metonymic thinking and Boyd & Goldenberg’s ‘closed world’ approach. There’s a good summary of SIT here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Systematic_inventive_thinking
Hi Susan, thanks for the reading tip. That does sound very interesting. I’ll add it to the Bibliography page.