Thinking Outside the Box Cliché

We understand it, but do not practice it

By Mark Anderko – Business Development Executive – Federal Government Services for Mutualink

Among the most well-worn phrases in the Public or Private Sectors  is “thinking outside the box”. It is intended to mean thinking creatively, freely, and off the beaten path. This concept has become cliché, especially today. We now operate in a pandemic environment where every day is considered the new normal and where protocols and responsibilities change frequently but the mission of the organization remains steadfast.  This blog targets interoperable communications – how do we leverage legacy resources?  How do we share information across these systems with our partners?  Are we complete; can we do better?

Thinking Outside the Box Like a Leader

As part of my leadership curriculum and class discussion I introduce this concept to the minds of aspiring leaders. Seasoned managers and leaders open their minds, as well.  In my introduction into the subject, I use the following exercise as an ice breaker.

Link all 9 dots using four straight lines or fewer, without lifting the pen and without tracing the same line more than once.

Anderko Blod 9 dots image

Failed 9Dot Puzzle Box

The result? The exercise usually ends with a dot missing and the individual or organization creating a perimeter, thus boxing them in.

99% of the time, the class struggles to connect all the dots given the set of instructions.  The 1% that succeed have been introduced to this concept before.  So here is my question,  If we hear and understand the concept,  why don’t we apply it.   The answer is simple, from day one we have been  programmed and bound by operational definitions and by our own blind spots.  Oh, and yes, we have them as individuals and as organizations.

The solution that captures all the dots with 4 lines goes beyond the framework of the box

9Dot Solution

See where “outside the box” comes from? There was no directive given about staying within a box, but our minds tend to build a box there, and a constraint is instantly put in place.

Thinking outside the box is about dispensing with constraints — as many as possible. That is what the solution does, and that is what the most effective kind of original and innovative thinking also does.

  1. Eliminate the Goal-Directedness of Your Thinking

If you aim at the same target everyone else is aiming at, your shots will end up where everyone else’s do. If you operate within the same paradigm as every other organization, you are going to remain in that proverbial box.

My point is that the minute you introduce a goal in your thinking, you are introducing a constraint. Your mind now has a direction, and it will tend to go in that direction. This is why so many organizations  bring in outside consultants, and concepts to help come up with new ideas. The consultants do not carry the burden of having blind spots on their thinking. They can offer up  new ideas and concepts that will enhance operational capabilities leveraging the organizations solution footprint.

  1. Intend to encounter, rather than “come up with” outside the box ideas

Rather than “coming up with ideas” — which is more an act of creation, it is better to think of yourself as just encountering ideas. You are not creating; you are just browsing. Use the lessons of discovery of what is available and what is the art of the possible to assist in growth and enhancement of current systems.

  1. Think wide

Keep every realm of thinking on the table. LMR and Video Sharing, Sharing MCPTT, while maintaining incident management and GIS solutions. Do not discount anything as unrelated or unconnected. It is often that kind of thinking that creates the kind of problems that demand “outside of the box” thinking in the first place.

The lesson is to stay wide in your thinking, Do not discount things that seem unconnected. The benefits to your Outside the Box thinking can be tremendous.

We can be prepared for an unpredictable world.

Emergencies are unpredictable. The who, what, when and where of communications needed for mitigation is unknown until the incident unfolds. Additionally, emergency environments are not static. New priorities can rapidly emerge. Therefore, collaboration is needed with those in both remote and immediate proximity. The complex interdependencies of the real world require a communications approach that serves this dynamic.

Complex incidents go across jurisdictional boundaries. They sometimes require response from local, state, and federal agencies. Mutualink’s secure peer-to-peer Internet Protocol (IP) network eliminates the need for a central switch or media server, so each agency controls what, when and with whom to share.

Moreover, Mutualink is network and device agnostic. So, each agency can securely communicate using legacy assets while transitioning to newer technologies with everything working seamlessly.

Making Critical Information Actionable

Mutualink is a premium solution for those with complex communication and safety challenges.

Mutualink connects

  • Critical information
  • In the right form
  • To the right people
  • At the right time


Mark Anderko is a retired Deputy Chief of Police from New Jersey. He has 28 years of experience in Law Enforcement and Emergency Management.  In addition, Mark served as an adjunct instructor for undergraduate and graduate-level courses in Police Science and Emergency and Disaster Management.  Mark is a Business Development Executive – Federal Government Services at Mutualink.

Mutualink strengthens Federal Government client missions by fostering relationships. The platform enhances the operational environment by enabling seamless multimedia communications.  Mutualink’s hardware and software provides consistent, high quality interoperability. The technology connects radio, phone, video, text, and data among thousands of customers on our network. Our solution grew out of needs identified after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Published On: July 30th, 2020 / By / Categories: Blog /