Boundaries Create Information

Say you’re playing chess and your opponent has you in a tight spot. One his knights is deployed to the center of the board in such a way that you can’t maneuver. What do you do? Maybe you push pawns in an attempt to drive the knight away. Maybe you do some tricky combination of moves that forces your opponent to choose between moving the knight and losing a bishop. Maybe you move your queen to a square where she can be taken by the knight, but this sacrifice unlocks a sequence of moves that ends in checkmate. Any of these tacks may be possible, and depending on the situation, we might consider one more creative than another. One thing you can’t do, however, is reach forward, pluck your opponent’s knight off the board and fling it across the room. Or rather, you can, but at that point you are no longer playing chess.

It’s a cliché for companies to encourage their employees to “think outside the box”, meaning to be innovative. The sentiment is a good one, but the exhortation is incomplete. What you actually must do is think outside this box–shape your thoughts to a different, larger, heretofore unimagined box that it wouldn’t have occurred to anyone else to think in. But you can’t think outside of every box, because no boxes, no thought.

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One Response to Boundaries Create Information

  1. Miz Crankypants says:

    I’ve got a box for you.

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