Why Being an Outside-of-the-Box Thinker Really Isn’t Good Enough

Let me start by saying that I would take an out-of-the-box thinker over someone who ‘colours inside the lines’ any day.

But unfortunately, if the only thing that happens out-of-the-box is thinking, it amounts to mental gratification only.

Let’s face it, the mind is only one ingredient to achieving greatness.

You need it to imagine doing extraordinary things but imagination on its own doesn’t go very far.

How many amazing ideas are left dying on the vine because they remained as ideas with no implementation?

That’s the startup reality and the challenge of making any new idea successful.

The death rate of new businesses and new ideas is painfully high because bright, imaginative individuals can’t turn their ‘brave new idea’ into a ‘crude deed’ that people are willing to pay money for.
They may be incredible at off-wall-thinking but can’t monetize what’s in their head.

What we need are ‘out-of-the-box DOERS’ who are capable of taking a ‘just about right’ idea and turning it into mind blowing success.

I’d put my money on someone who has a slightly flawed idea with an amazing ability to execute their ‘imperfect notion’ pristinely.

Here are some outside-the-box doer tips for you that I learned over my career as an executive leader with an operations bent.

#1. Have a plan the is ‘built to execute’; a plan to do!

The doers ethic is to have a plan that can be effectively executed, and this is where my Strategic Game Plan—SGP—comes in. The SGP is a simple and audacious way to simply and quickly create a strategy for your organization in literally 48 hours and begin executing in the 49th hour.

  • The SGP is created by answering 3 questions:
  • HOW BIG do you want to be — 24 month revenue growth goal?
  • WHO do you want to serve — Customer groups to target?
  • HOW will you COMPETE and win — The ONLY Statement: “by being the ONLY ones who…”

Check out the above referenced links to learn more about SGP.

#2. ’Cleanse-the-inside’ of the organization

You can’t DO anything if the inside of the organization is clogged up with stuff preventing people from executing your plan, so try these tactics to make things run smoother:

  • Eliminate the Dumb Rules, policies and processes that don’t make any sense to customers and do nothing but create painful experiences for them. If people aren’t willing to engage with you and your inside reality, your imagined future evades reality.
  • Cut the CRAP or grunge that makes it extremely difficult for people to do their jobs and deliver expected results. This is the bureaucratic bullsh*t that slows things down while some power pusher gets their ego assuaged. How do you identify CRAP? Just ask the people doing the job and they’ll tell you in no uncertain terms what’s preventing them from doing their job.


#3. Assign a Strategy Hawk

Doers need someone—the Strategy Hawk—to drive the execution process, someone whose entire existence in the organization depends on how well the SGP is implemented in terms of meeting the objectives of the plan within the expected timeframes.

The Hawk must be a leader who is well respected by the employee group, is tenacious and who has a high tolerance for ‘pain’ (changing the course of any organization is difficult; it requires someone who has the energy and perseverance to push through all internal roadblocks and resistance).

#4. Focus on the frontline

The employees on ‘the bottom’ of the organization need to receive priority attention from everyone who has their fingerprints on the SGP.

If the frontline doesn’t perform well, the SGP doesn’t get executed. Period.

Focussing on the frontline requires actions like:

  • leaders holding Bear Pit Sessions with frontliners to determine what help they need to execute better.
  • leaders reorienting their calendars to spend more time ‘serving around’ in the workplace.
  • recognizing and rewarding frontliners for behaviours that lead to superlative execution.
  • changing the internal communications emphasis on such things as technology and products and services to add the frontline component and why they are so critical to the organization.

#5. Clarify everyone’s role in executing the strategy

This is where most organizations fail.

Leaders don’t spend the time translating the SGP into what it means specifically to every function (and every individual) in the organization. What each person has to give up and what new actions, activities and behaviours they need to take on.

If employees don’t have a direct line of sight to the SGP, they decide on their own what actions are needed to implement it, which results in internal dysfunction (as everyone takes a different approach to executing the Plan) and results fall short of Plan execution.

Leaders must take on the role of SGP translation to ensure the right actions are taken in harmony by everyone in the organization to ensure flawless Plan execution.


Out-of-the-box Doers are the most valuable assets of any organization.

Out-of-the-box thinking will get you only so far; without morphing intellectual intent into action, thoughts have little value.

Related: Why Aspirations Should Never Be Used To Define Your Competitive Advantage