The phrase “thinking outside of the box” is a popular one in the business world. It is, apparently, a very desirable skill. But what does that mean, exactly?
Well, there’s a box — that would be the “known,” the existing, the predictable, the readily apparent. And then there’s “outside” the box — the “unknown,” the not so obvious, the world beyond the apparent, the realm of possibilities.
If you are competent in your chosen profession, you can identify and understand the contents of the box (and so can all of your colleagues). Few truly see that a) there is a box and b) there is something outside of it.
So how do you escape the box? Imagination. Creativity. Vision.
How do you cultivate these traits? Reading.
Reading exposes you to other worlds, other realities. You experience life from new perspectives and in new environments. You develop your capacity to empathize. You acquire vocabulary, internalize the elements of good writing, and expand your consciousness. And all of this cultivates your ability to climb out of the box and up the ladder.
Where should you start? Right here. A few years back, I surveyed my professors and fellow Ph.D. students in the English department and compiled a list of the books that most influenced their love of reading. Pick one…or two…or three… Your brain (and career) will thank you! (FinalBookList)
For more on the career benefits of reading, take a look at John Coleman’s “For Those Who Want to Lead, Read” in the Harvard Business Review blog forum. He makes a compelling case for reading as the key to success in the business world: http://blogs.hbr.org/2012/08/for-those-who-want-to-lead-rea/