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To Think Outside the Box you have to Study Boxes
on April 29, 2014
I give this book 5-Stars for opening my eyes to a new way of thinking. It's not particularly well written, and these days all of its examples are over 20 years old. However, I continue to recommend it (and give copies to friends and acquaintances) because I haven't come across a better book that covers the same ground.
Barker gives several definitions of a paradigm which all boil down to "a framework of rules within which problems are solved." It seems we humans solve problems by first creating a conceptual framework defining the problem is and then apply whatever problem-solving rules we consider to be most applicable to it.
With the concept of a framework of rules in mind, imagine a major league baseball game. The batter has just hit a long ball and is passing second base on the way to third when the shortstop tackles him and wrestles him to the ground. If this happened in real life the YouTube video would go viral overnight. Why? Because it's so comical that a player would break such an unbreakable rule. No professional baseball player ever feels so desperate to stop a runner that he'd try to stop him that way. If it happened, it would strike us as hysterically funny.
Barker's entire book addresses this propensity to put ourselves within a framework of rules -- a conceptual box he calls a paradigm -- and to solve all problems within those rules. The baseball example is funny, but with the first example in the book he describes the irony of how the Swiss watch industry went from owning 65% of the watch market to 10% in a dozen years because of the advent of the quartz watch. This wouldn't be ironic if it weren't for the fact that the Swiss had invented the quartz watch but never considered it anything but a toy. It seems that if you spend your entire life working on better escapements and finer jeweled bearings, the idea of controlling the accuracy with a crystal is as silly as the shortstop tackling the runner.
One could wish that Mr. Barker would update his book for all of the paradigm shifts that have occurred in the last two decades, but since he hasn't done so I see this book as still relevant. I note that "other sellers" are selling it for as low as a penny (which translates to four dollars delivered), and it's certainly worth all of that.