Escape from the box

Imagine a fish raised in a
fishbowl. Its entire existence is enclosed in about one cubic square foot of
water. In this environment,
the fish is content to live out
its life, unaware of the world
outside. The fish is limited
by walls. This is the box we
need to escape from if we
want to excel.

When we think outside of
the box, a million-dollar idea
can seem so simple. We have
to reach beyond our self-imposed walls of limitations.
If we don’t, we’ll get left
behind. Think about how the
first airplane was invented.
While airplanes have only
existed since the beginning
of this century, the technology has been around before
man. The Wright brothers
imitated the balance and
aerodynamics of a bird’s
wing in their design. They
were one of the first to look
beyond mankind’s self-imposed limitations and to
see the relationship and
possibilities in applying
nature to industry.

In 1954, as a 52-year-old milk-shake-machine vendor was
visiting one of his restaurant
customers in San Bernardino,
Calif., he witnessed a
unique food assembly line
system that two brothers
had developed. Immediately
recognizing the potential of
their idea, he offered to pay
them a percentage of their
gross receipts. The brothers
agreed, and the vendor set
up a copy of their restaurant in Des Plaines, Ill., on
April 15, 1955. That year, he
opened two more restaurants, and within the next
six years, he had opened
228 more stores. The brothers, Maurice and Richard
McDonald, and the milk-shake-machine salesman,
Ray Kroc, have permanent
places in U.S. history. The
lesson? Sometimes, all it
takes is a simple idea to
make the difference
between minor and historic

I recognize that thinking
outside of our walls can be
difficult. In today’s fast-paced environment, the one
thing that most people lack
is time. We’re always rushed
to make decisions, and the
urgency of accomplishing
the immediate naturally rises
to the top of our priority list.
What we don’t realize is that
this mentality encourages us
to act like gerbils on a
wheel, spinning in circles
but not really going anywhere. Therefore, it is
important to be able to take
ourselves outside of the picture at times to look at
things objectively. When we
train ourselves to be more
open-minded, we open
doors to Ray Kroc’s level of

I’ve found from experience
that continual learning helps
maintain an open mindset.
We need to remind ourselves
to invest time in learning, no
matter our age. For example,
history has a marvelous habit
of repeating itself. By reading
about history, we gain various perspectives on how people respond to certain situations, and we can learn from
their successes and mistakes.
I, for one, read the Bible. It
helps me broaden my perspective on life, and it provides a personal resource for
me in finding new, yet
ancient, ways of viewing and
responding to situations.

There are other resources
that can aid us in tearing
down our walls. A source we
deal with in business each
day is our vendors. When
you think that those vendors
are probably dealing with six
or seven other businesses
like yours on a daily basis,
they suddenly represent a
great resource. They see and
hear all the latest innovations taking place in our
industries. How do you treat
these people? Are they like
flies waiting to be swatted,
or do you see them as valuable team members?

Maybe the next great idea
you’ll encounter will come
from one of your employees.
How are you treating them?

Our attitude can be the
direct cause of failure or
great success. Treating people respectfully is one way
of breaking down our walls.
And it’s an easy way to start
climbing out of our box.

FRED KOURY is president and CEO of Smart Business Network Inc. Reach him with your
comments at (800) 988-4726 or

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