Monday, October 7, 2013

Burn Your Own Box

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It's no longer enough to "think outside the box." The latest catch phrase I'm hearing in the innovation circles I run in is "burn the box." Having exhausted all the creative and wonderful ideas that came from climbing out of the box, we're are evidently ready to finally destroy the damn thing and venture out totally on our own.

Wait. Are you sure? Which box, exactly, are we burning?

Not the one I've spent the last seven years building? The one I built from scratch out of the broken pieces I found scattered on the floor when I first walked in this place? The one that is just starting to provide a clear and consistent direction for everything we do? Not that one.

What about that other box? The one that keeps our members engaged with one another and with our association? The one that keeps them paying their dues and coming to our meetings and paying for our services? You know, the box they built years before any of us staff were even here. The one they might miss if we got rid of it, and would probably douse with water if we tried to set it on fire. Not that one.

And what about that third one? The one that pays you a salary and gives you health insurance and a 401(k) plan and every other Friday off? You're really going to take a match to that one? I don't think so.

You know what, Sparky? You go right ahead and burn your boxes. But keep your hands off mine. I'll still think outside of them when I need an innovative idea, but I'm going to keep them. Most of the time, they come in pretty handy.

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This post was written by Eric Lanke, an association executive, blogger and author. For more information, visit, follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at

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