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Thinking In New Boxes with Alan Iny (Marketing Insights Podcast)

bookOn today’s episode of the podcast, Danny interviews his cousin Alan Iny, co-author of the new book Thinking in New Boxes.

The book is all about how people think.

It’s about how thoughts are constrained in our minds and, what that means for challenging our perceptions.

We all think in boxes.

They’re a symbol for a mental model or framework.

Most of the time we can’t help but use them, but what we need to be doing is evaluating what they are, and why we’re using them so we can see if maybe there’s a better way we could be doing things.

But that’s enough of a preamble, the real gold is in the interview, so take a listen below!

Listen to the podcast now!

Distilled Wisdom

  • The world is full of uncertainty, and we take all of that uncertainty and simplify it into these mental models or “boxes” that we can use to explain things we encounter in the world.
  • Not all boxes are useless, in fact some are very important. For example we have a box for carnivorous felines, and that’s something we would use it to identify the looming threat of a hungry lion looking for lunch, and that’s pretty useful! Sometimes though, these boxes can hold us back.
  • 50 or 60 years ago, if you were something like CN, and you were thinking “We are a railroad company,” then that was fine. But if you thought that – more generally -you were in charge of getting things from point A to B you would be better equipped to explore and adapt and change when the onslaught of air travel and bus travel started moving in on the monopoly that the rail companies had on travel.
  • We can’t mitigate all the effects of cognitive biases, but we can strive to take the time to identify these biases and boxes, and just step back a bit. Sometimes you just need to take a good look at something, and then challenge how you’re looking at it.
  • There is a five step process you can follow that’ll get you climbing out of those old boxes and diving into new ones:
    1. Doubt Everything – “Hey, what if we did that differently?”
    2. Explore – This is gathering necessary data to make decisions. This is a whole bunch of research that you have to do on what you believe and why, and you’ve got to do this with fresh lenses. You have to maintain an atmosphere of doubt.
    3. Divergence – This is when you start putting a lot of ideas on the table, without judgement. People often fail by jumping straight into this as a first step, but you need to doubt and explore first, so you can gather more productive results.
    4. Convergence – It’s all about prioritizing ideas. All of those ideas you just put on the table? It’s time to take a good hard look at them and select the cream of the crop from among those ideas.
    5. Re-evaluate – You have to recognize that no good idea – from penicillin to the iPhone – will be good forever. We will always have to re-evaluate.
  • There are times where “it ain’t broke, and we don’t need to fix it,” but there are also times that even when things are going well – you should still be re-evaluating.
  • Even if business is going well, there are two types of moments that every business will have to grapple with at some point. Eureka Moments and Carumba Moments. A Eureka moment is when you come up with a great new idea before everyone else, and you have to change your box to fit the new idea, even when things are going well. A Carumba moment is when someone else comes up with an amazing idea or way to sell something cheaply and forces you to change your box!
  • If someone has 3 hours to set aside to put this information to work for them, what should they use them for? Just start to doubt. Identify your mental models and start asking, “how do we do things, and how we can shake things up?” Just start to challenge your boxes. You need to start breaking assumptions, and that’s what people usually skip – they jump straight to trying to think outside the box, without knowing what the box is.

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What mental boxes are hampering your thinking? What would you like to do to change that?

Let us know in the comments!

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