Some people say I think outside the box. My usual response is "There was a BOX???? Why is it that nobody told me?" Being an outlier implies that there are limits for you to exceed. But the question for me is "Why do you think there are limits?" I found at least a partial answer to that with the government contractor job, but even there I found ways around problems. Usually my solution involved just thinking up solutions as crazy as ever and then clearing it with the supervisor and the security manager beforehand. I'm going to say that 99% of the time, if you get the guy who wants something to talk to the people who impose limits, you can get them to decide to agree on a solution that just steps on the minimum of toes, then march on to the solution.
I'm not telepathic. I don't know how other people think so I can't tell you what I do that is different. All I know is that I look at the most logical solution for a problem and usually resolve the issue that way. Since Einstein showed us that everything is relative, I see some folks as thinking inside illusory boxes of their own making. Therefore, your question equally makes sense if you ask "Do you think like an inlier?" Other people see barriers. I see what they see and interpret it as just doing something that requires prior approval before barreling on through. And we can't forget the old saying about it being easier to get forgiveness than approval.
We are prisoners of our minds, interpreting what is possible or impossible based on our beliefs. It reminds me of the expanding universe. It is expanding into "something". Our beliefs are the expanding universe, while the "something" is everything, what is possible given no limiting beliefs.
I say it because whenever I am asked to input to a solution, I almost always bring a perspective to the issue at hand that no-one else has. That's probably why I'm in the job I do. And it's also why I have difficulty identifying within the normal distribution of the general population on the many topics we've debated. But then, you know me best, Jon. What is your view?
Bee, your difficulty identifying with the "normal" distribution is because they are on the inside of some self-imposed box that you can't see. Can't say what is "normal" if you happen to not see the same limits. It is part and parcel of my "relative viewpoint" comments. People see you as an outlier because you can think your way outside of a really thin paper bag. But does that make you the oddball for thinking better than they do given the same situation? I would believe otherwise.
Bee, if you didn't bring a different perspective then why would they put you in the high powered job that you have? You have to add something into the mix, be it a new perspective, better judgement or a view that is not bound by the patriarchy.
At the same time, we all inhabit echo chambers, unless we are hermits, which I tend to be. So, I end up with all sorts of eccentric views that have not been modified by social pressure, which tends to erode the sharp edges of one's beliefs.
Doc, perhaps the term itself, Outlier, is a box. It suggests there is a binary juxtaposition of Outlier vs inside-the-box. Yet most of reality is on a continuum. Or is it? Have I just instantly misrepresented reality by defining it, just as you determine the directional spin of an electron by the process of observation itself, while the second observation has a 50:50 chance of the spin being in the opposite direction? Perhaps any definition cannot determine exact reality, because all semantics are a reduction of the territory. Now I am caught in a loop, since if I say that this is the true reality, then by my own definition this cannot be true. This sentence is false.
Something to chew on, on this fine Monday afternoon!
Whether "Outlier" is a box or merely represents one doesn't matter. When it comes to mental issues, perception is everything. If someone perceives that I think outside of the box, that implies they saw a box. The fact that I didn't just means everyone has different barriers or perceptions of them.
I would agree that if there is a reality out there (and I believe there is), we always see it through us-colored glasses if we see it at all. I maintain that whatever we can measure mechanically is closer to reality than what we see.
FWIW: We don't measure that the spin of a given electron is a given direction, but rather that some substance has unmatched electrons that can be measured by electron spin resonance techniques. The act of measuring via ESR probably causes spin flips, and any way the orientation is not important chemically speaking. What we measure is (a) unmatched spins and (b) the sharpness or diffuseness of the spin energies. The sharpness is related to the strength and localization (or delocalization) of the chemical bonds.
Worse, though the model has proven itself countless times, we must remember that the quantum numbers for orbital electron spin are artifacts of the math behind the Schrödinger equations. I don't know that they are any more than glofified small-scale place holders.
Frequently "the box" is just self-imposed barriers of doubt. We all live inside walls of our own making. Pardon the use of vernacular here, but when I was younger I struck out with the ladies consistently because of my own self-imposed (and incorrect) beliefs regarding my limitations. I can look back with enlightened eyes to see the truth of what I didn't see back then. Now I can see those barriers and know them for the sham that they were. I had loads of self-doubt because I naively believed what others told me without realizing that they were subtle bullies. What they told me was not said with my best interests at heart. But I believed them.
Belief is a strange thing. Immaterial, yet more binding in its own way than the strongest ropes, the heaviest chains, the thickest walls ... pick your favorite metaphor for something confining. Think of "The Art of War." The most effective way to win a battle is to persuade the enemy to not start a battle. Well, those boxes make people not want to start some action, whether benevolent or malevolent or out where the wild things grow.
I'm not arrogant enough to say I can do anything - but I can do more now and could have done more then. The problem was that I didn't believe it then. Just as belief can be a barrier, so can an improved belief break down a barrier.
Perhaps there is no ‘box’ at all. The ‘box’ may well be a social construct. A division. The ‘box’ is possibly a visual representation of a collective body of knowledge. Ergo, thinking outside that ‘box’ makes you an outlier?
At work, I frequently ask my team: "Why do you do that?" To which the answer, invariably is, "We've always done it that way."
Thinking outside the box has been stretched and manipulated over the years so that it's become anodyne and clichéd, but I think it simply means looking at problems and solutions in a different way to what/how you've done before.
My grandmother used to say to me: "If you do what you always did, you'll get what you always got."
Yes! And that's fascinating. I wonder why it is? I get that any form of change is threatening for some - whereas I thrive on change - but why is lateral thinking so problematic? Could it be because not everyone 'can' think laterally and people are afraid of being left behind?
Maybe the fear of change is some kind of social homeostasis, where everyone wants to maintain the status quo. In our primitive past, change could be a risk to life, your rank within your group or the unknown. So, ergo, change = risk.
As someone used to problems of software engineering, chemical engineering, and electrical engineering, I feel it necessary to defend the phrase, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Taken out of context, it sounds like someone wants to rest on their laurels. But the real problem is that taken in proper context, it is excellent advice for an optimization of results over a larger set of distinct problems. If you have limited resources and want to maximize results, you often throw resources at the things that need the most work. You shore up the worst thing first. Then stop and see if anything else isn't working.
If what you are currently fixing is now working adequately, you need to redirect attention to that which is still broken, or at least that which is more broken than the thing you last worked on. In a world of infinite resources, you can fix everything. But in a world of limited resources, that which isn't broken doesn't need to be fixed NOW. Later? Maybe. In that larger context, the phrase makes sense. In isolation, you ignore the origin of that concept and the reality of the situation that led to coining that phrase.
There is also the 80/20 rule. The first 80% of a problem takes up 80% of the time you had available. The last 20% takes the other 80% of the time. (No wait, the math ain''t right...) But the truth is that life doesn't linearly approach a problem. It does so logarithmically, and thus the apparent math problem. If the 80% fix can get you past whatever disaster is looming, the "ain't broke, don't fix" rule is actually quite practical. I have seen the 80/20 rule in force many times and know that when the math disagrees with reality, the math is wrong.
Having said that, I also understand that human endeavor is often flawed and in need of tweaking. NO solution is likely to be perfect unless you have derived an ab initio mathematical model to conclusively prove what needs to be done. But that's so rare that I would never bet on one popping up in any field of human endeavor. So yes, anything CAN be improved, and therefore if it ain't broke, see if you CAN fix it anyway - but not if something else has higher priority.
Jon, specific to your post #16 of this thread: Change is usually an enemy for creatures who learn by rote. Learning isn't always based on reasoning. It is sometimes based on someone surviving an incident long enough to tell the tale. Imagine Grug the caveman: "Me big caveman, take sharp stick. Tiger come, I poke stick in tiger chest, tiger die." Then everyone sees the dead tiger and living Grug, at which point marketing is born, because now, thanks to Grug, everyone needs a sharp stick.
Here's the catch: As long as poking the tiger hard in the chest with a sharp stick preserves the caveman's life, nobody is there to contradict the result - and the tribe has learned by rote, not by reason. Those who fail for some reason just don't make it back to disprove that rule learned by rote. And thus that rule persists, with many cavemen bringing in many dead tigers ... until the day that Prok the caveman uses the sharp stack on a tiger but misses any vital structure. So the understandably angry tiger claws poor Prok before escaping in pain. Now Prok's story and Grug's story are in conflict. Having only learned by rote, not by science or reasoning, the tribe has to reconcile stories, both of which are incomplete. How do they resolve this? Most likely, Prok's tiger was a demon tiger who can't be killed by a sharp stick. And thus religion is born and the first demon is created.
For people who don't think so well as they just remember, rote learning is better than no learning at all - but thinking outside of the box takes them places they don't want to go; places where demons dwell.
Doc, I believe you are referring to "Survivorship Bias." Those who failed never made it to tell their story.
I agree that learning is not always based on reasoning. In fact, I would argue that most learning is subliminal, where life experience subtly rewires our mind. It is like water eroding away the sharp edges of a rock, where over time we are "modified". There is much research into "brain plasticity" recently. Before, it was assumed we are impermeable to change, with your brain ending up as a dried up walnut! But in fact the new data suggests that our brains are in constant flux, with constant rewiring and change. While youth may convey faster and more numerous rewiring, it does not stop as previously assumed. Hurrah for that!