Everyone reading this column will at some time or another have been to a meeting or event where they were challenged in front of their peers to “think outside of the box.”
It is the not-so-new way to make pale, stale, males squirm in their seats and consider early retirement.
This is a world in which the small details of work and business – the nitty gritty if you like – get belittled in order to make way for someone’s big idea. You might call it blue sky thinking but in my view, it is just as likely to be the boss’s latest vanity project. And it may not even be his or her original thinking that brought it to the table in the first place. They might have read about it in that copy of Business Week that they carry around in their brief case and whip out in the executive airport lounge to demonstrate to other lounging blue sky thinkers that they are a serious player. Or they may have read it on the back of a box of cereal. But not all such ideas are bad ones and we wouldn’t be here discussing this in print if Johanes Guttenberg hadn’t slipped out of his comfort zone and had his own bright idea in 1436.
Insider was at a conference recently during which the aviation industry was challenged for being too conservative, obsessed with making minor changes to its business model instead of questioning the whole premise on which that model is based. The audience was given a vision of the future in which the international traveling hordes have a viable and sustainable alternative to flying. Google’s driverless car was one alternative. Using their special app or social media people will be able to find out when the next driverless car train convoy was leaving to their chosen destination and simply join it, sit back and relax. There are also people in San Francisco who are looking seriously at building an enormously long metal tube to fire people along at great speed.
I could be wrong, this might all catch on. But there is still a part of me that believes the surest way to progress and prosperity is through the details. The packaging on that airline sandwich or a route added or taken away are essential details of the grand design. Ignore them at your peril.