Music scholars have oft complained about the structure of the popular song because it supposedly places constraints on the creativity of the musician. So their argument goes: if all you have is three minutes to capture somebody's attention with your song and leave them changed by the last note, then that's a very small box to work within. Why can't we take it back to the structure of the symphony—more time and space for musical genius?
And yet, years ever since the appearance of popular music in our culture, people are still being challenged, changed, and inspired by the three minute song. I think this is because many of the things we tend to view as boxes that stifle creativity aren't actually all that stifling; when you have boundaries around you, they force you to explore the possibility present within those confines and think of new ways to to work within those old structures.
Many of us have been told it's okay to think outside the box, and it is. But many of us take that creative commission to the extreme and tell ourselves it's okay to blow up the box all the time. Yes, there are times when you have to destroy the old boxes we find ourselves in with innovative dynamite, but there are also many cases when it's better to explore the edges of the box and learn about its dynamics before we reach for the innovative TNT.
I used to think that blowing up the boxes around me was the best way to do my best work, but my perspective has altered over time as I've worked in groups and team more and have worked within a context that has many moving parts and many boundaries that have to be identified and worked within.
There was a time when I would have thought these boundaries were counterproductive and limiting, but I'm starting to see these boundaries more as invitations now; invitations to explore the edges of of my context and ask why are you here? what problems are you trying to solve? what are and aren't you accomplishing? how I can use your dimensions and dynamics in a new way? From there, I can decide what needs to be added, taken away, or enhanced.
Are you always trying to blow up the box? Maybe you need to start by exploring its edges first and pushing at them a bit to see what happens.
A rigid glass cylinder holds water so that we can drink it with ease.
Boundaries aren't as bad as we often think they are.