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To sharpen your focus limit your choices

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in Leaders & Managers,Workplace Communication

Two business-minded brothers are confirming the idea that people do better with fewer choices, saying it’s better to think inside the box.

That’s right. The new outside-the-box thinking calls for getting right back inside that box, say Dan and Chip Heath, authors of Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die.

Here’s the deal:

Say you manage a bank. Your marketing person says the lobby needs to look younger, less formal, to attract new customers. He suggests thinking outside the box. Start with a blank slate.

Suppose he’d said instead that the lobby should look less like a post office and more like a Starbucks. Now you’ve got something to work with. Or, as jazz bassist Charles Mingus once said, “You can’t improvise on nothing, man.”

The Starbucks idea narrows your field of vision, and that’s good. It sharpens the focus, concentrating it on fewer, better options.

Here are two more examples: Chip Conley designs his hotels to look like particular magazines (one is based on Rolling Stone), and the shopping magazine Domino designs rooms to look like particular outfits of clothing.

Lesson: Specificity cuts down on your number of choices and makes your decisions easier. So instead of thinking outside the box, find a new box.

—Adapted from “Get Back in the Box,” Dan Heath and Chip Heath, Fast Company.

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