Banging “the World” into Sorting Boxes -Thinkibility Boost

We picked up the suggestion in last exercise of the 29 Day Thinkibility Challenge, ” make it a habit to convert a beautiful question into a visualization on an index card”. So we made up our Thinking Challenge to reflect on what “Boxes”, “Concepts”, Patterns” and Analogies” has to do with Thinkibility.

Here is the first one about Thinking Categories: Boxes.

boxes 1

Many of you are familiar with a toy that has holes in it in different forms: a heart, a triangle, a circle, a cube, etc. A toddler is asked to sort the shapes into the box. This toy is used for play, but also for remedial teaching as it challenge recognition of shapes and also enhances eye-hand coordination.

In effect, we do nothing else apart from this when we recognize and categorize things we see and have to interpret, before we can act upon the situation. Activites such as pushing a doorbell, walking towards a chair to sit down,  fetching a spoon, or avoiding a car.

Eventhough the sorting acitivity may be more abstract and sophisticated in nature, is the same process that doctors, lawyers, policymakers and managers (and many more professions) apply when confronted with new situations.

A doctor combines symptoms such as fever, coughing and sweating and categorize them as belonging to a known illness such as flu, measles or Ebola. When he has decided into which box the symptoms belong, then he knows how to cure by following a protocol.

A prosecutor has to decide what section of law applies to a particular  criminal, and the criminal lawyer might argue that the offence fits better to another section, which may be more a favorable article of the law from his clientäs perspective. If it is clear what section of the law applies, the judge knows the right sentence.

If policy makers know the cause of  socially undesirable acitivites actions and such as alcohol misuse or domestic violence, then a remedial is quickly found. However, finding the right box is not that easy, i.e. the underlying cause to the behaviour may consist of a range of complex factors.

Managers have to their disposal an extended toolbox of proven management techniques to solve problems. There are volumes of managerial “How to Books”. However, reading the situation wrongly will lead to activating the wrong measures and doing so may result in a disaster.


But perhaps you “read” or “see” something else we visualised about the influence of “thinking boxes” on our thinking. It must be, because visualizinng provokes different views. We came across this beautiful one:

“Poor Lina she was feeling so confused. The thoughts were swirling around her head. She asked the same question over and over again – should she become a lawyer or a doctor?”Both need to listen to people and I am very good a listening to others,” she muttered to herself.

Then she remembered that James always said that she was a bossy sort of girl. So maybe a policy maker was  a better choice. Or a manager. Or maybe lawyers and doctors make decisions too, decisions that have impact on other people’s life.

“Grrr, what a hopeless task to put different occupations into separate boxes!” shouted Lina and throw away the sorting box.

This gentle story points to a negative point of thinking in boxes. We can’t live without Thinking Boxes, but at the same time the boxes limits our thinking, and therefore, our possibilities. Perhaps, we need here and there some new boxes.

5 Replies to “Banging “the World” into Sorting Boxes -Thinkibility Boost”

  1. Different labels
    Although the overlap between the above-mentioned complaints is large, little research has been done into that overlap. Anxiety researchers look at the day, sleep researchers look at the night, even though they often study the same person.

    That blind spot is a matter of language, thinks Van Someren. “We have invented different labels and divide the problem between those boxes. This creates different groups of patients, which we then try to keep strictly separate. Many studies look only at anxiety, or only at depression, or only at sleep. ”

    In research into insomnia, for example, usually everyone who also has depressive symptoms is sacked from the test group – despite the fact that these two complaints very often go hand in hand, and the differences between those groups are therefore rather arbitrary.

    “We did it that way ten years ago,” says Van Someren about his research group at the Netherlands Brain Institute. “We would look for sleepless people for research, find 470 and have them fill in questionnaires about how anxious or how gloomy they were. Then we threw out everyone who was even a little bit anxious or depressed, with the lowest cut-off for those illnesses, though they all really had insomnia. We ended up with 35 people left: the Vikings among the sleepless. Well, we have made some nice findings, but those results say nothing about all sleepless people. ”

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