In or Out of the Box?


When I was agency side, my marketing team’s eyes would roll way back in their sockets every time our clients demanded, "OUT OF THE BOX concepts!” 

“OK!” we’d reply. Sleeves rolled up, creative heavy hitters called in, we’d dive deep and brainstorm the heck out of our client’s RFP. No idea was left unturned. Pigs in space! Babies in the Oval Office!! Dogs who talk, and drive!!! Genuinely entertained and engaged during the pitch, we’d feel certain that this one time our client would actually buy innovative vs. squarely “in-the-box.” 

Innovation can prove to be dangerous business within mature organizations, and there's good reason for this. If I sign off on risk and it's a total bomb, heads may very well roll. Even if my company embraces a series of failures as necessary on the road to success, it is challenging to “think out of the box” when you have a head full of institutional knowledge to the point of feeling like you can get inside the c-suite’s collective consciousness and rip apart all of your ideas before they even make it to your blank sheet of paper! 

When we’re in stealth startup mode, there is no blueprint or apple cart to spill. Detonation is the threshold we walk daily.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained. This allows us to ignore monopolies that stand in our way (Uber), disrupt established consumer habits (Airbnb), or eliminate our tech platform only to keep it’s most popular feature (Instagram).

If I didn’t love my current position so much, I’d try to pitch myself as an "In the Box" alarmist. Perhaps you can help me identify the early signs when we start to fear change and thereby begin to drink the cool-aid. 


Julie Engels
Executive Director of AE