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Thinking outside the box - Why outside thought processes matter

We’re all quite used to hearing the catchphrase “think outside the box” especially in the world of business from our colleagues, clients and suppliers. But what does it mean to you and what exactly is “the box” anyway? And, how is this in any way relevant to using an external consultancy to help you achieve your goals? 

If you approach finding solutions to problems in new and innovative ways or try to conceptualise a positive outcome in a way you’d never thought of before, then most would agree that you could say that you were thinking outside of the box. 

What may bring around some lively debate however is consensus on what the box is or what it represents. In someone's opinion it may represent a constraint or limits around the person trying to solve the problem. It could also be their viewpoint (or mindset) is fixed, and they cannot see fully outside of it. In fact, they may have full knowledge and even control of what is happening inside the box, but outside is far from their control, yet events happening there are more than likely incredibly relevant to them. 

Or, perhaps, the box represents an existing solution for in which we would gladly place the problem as a one size fits all approach. After all, if this familiar way of working has functioned well in the past, why should we change it now or look for alternatives? Surely, armed with this experience operating within the box, we know what we’re dealing with and we already know the best way to tackle it... or do we?

There can be a natural tendency to want to solve problems only internally

In some organisations, certainly larger ones, there is a certain semblance with what the suggestions of what the box represented with that of the organisations and companies we’re all a part of every day. 

As companies grow and adopt policies, procedures, set standards for solving problems, including within software development, they can often lose track of what is happening externally to the company.  

Much of the knowledge, skills and experience they did not have internal access to earlier in their existence may now be available in-house.  

There may be a perception that outside consultancies are no longer as necessary as they previously were. In fact, one of the main driving forces behind this internalisation may be an envisaged cost saving. It may also be an assumption that teams within the same organisation could achieve more or deliver more quickly than externally. 

Whilst there are clear benefits in having a range of internal resources, there are also disadvantages too. It can be very easy to lose visibility of what is happening outside of your organisation. Are your products and services still as relevant to your customers as they used to be? Are there technological advancements in use elsewhere which have been proven to work better and more efficiently than what you're relying on right now?

So it makes sense to finding the right balance between the use of internal and external teams, to keep in touch with the changing landscape, both within your company and outside it. This balance is more than likely a discussion point in itself, but here are some key points and statements that can be used to determine when considering to use an external consultancy. 

 

External consultancies are a great way to get access to an outside viewpoint of the box

Despite the brilliance that lies within an organisation, taking advantage of obtaining external opinions can help when making tough decisions or trying to tackle a new unique project or issue. Even though it may be the case that a client has a sound perspective on the issue, they still may wish to validate what they’re thinking or, of course, ensure they’re not a million miles away off the mark. 

Outside consultancies will often have a wide range of experience based on a whole range of variations of the same issue. They’ll also have seen which approaches not only work, but work in the most effective way, and bring new innovative ways to solving challenges that the client would not have come up with on their own. 

 

Sometimes you simply need additional people to get the job done

The day to day problems that companies face are all important and finding the resources to deal with them all within achievable timelines is tricky, and from an internal perspective, sometimes impossible. 

Companies after all still need to work on their business as usual tasks and any upcoming projects often mean moving employees from another project or other ongoing duties. Sometimes, even hiring new people might not solve the problem either. Projects have a lifespan of their own and there is no guarantee that you will require those people when they end. 

In these cases, using consultancies offers the capability to tackle the problem without severely impacting your business-as-usual workforce. They often have a scalable approach to working, meaning even when a project ends they still will be able to support you with a reduced level of resourcing, something that may not have been possible if it was not a full-time job for a permanent staff member. 

 

Fill Those Temporary skill gaps

By using an external consultancy, you gain access to skills that you might not have internally and do so immediately, without the need to recruit. If you were to seek such people as permanent employees, they may not only be expensive to hire but difficult to find. 

 

Cut through some of the pains of working internally

Within organisations, it can be difficult to make decisions and take immediate action due to the need to involve several departments, follow well-intentioned but ultimately inefficient procedures or get caught up in internal politics. Using a consultancy not only provides the ability to side-step some of these difficulties but additionally provides unbiased (and perhaps unpopular but necessary) opinions. 

Ultimately, it may also actually help by freeing up the innovators and thinkers in the company by moving away the planning and implementation leaving space to create products and services that will differentiate them from their competitors. In a way, lifting up them from “the box”, for a view of the outside themselves. 

  

We hope this article was helpful and insightful. We believe it is worth considering the use of outside thought processes to help your problem-solving capabilities and keep strategies fresh and relevant. As industries mature in the online world, it is becoming difficult to differentiate what benefits one company offers over another.

Therefore we believe there is value in the ability to leverage an external consultancy to help you think differently when approaching problems and disrupt any “inside box only” thought processes. Why not contact us to discuss how we can assist you in your next project.

 

Drew Durkin
Drew Durkin, Director

Hello from the Managing Director at Netshell. I'm a software consultant, leader and strategist with over 20 years experience and a proven track record in delivering high-capacity, low-latency and fault tolerant solutions.

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