The origin of the phrase “thinking outside the
box” is typically attributed to the Nine Dots Puzzle,
pictured below. Three rows of three dots are inside
a box. The challenge is to connect the dots with
four straight lines without picking up your pencil.
As it turns out, the solution to the puzzle involves
going outside the perimeter of the box that surrounds
the dots. Hence, to solve a problem or think
creatively, you often have to look at things with a
new or different perspective.
First, it’s necessary to identify what the box, or
challenge, is. Then take a look at what’s already inside the box in terms of
tried and true practices or conventional
wisdom that has worked in the
past. Thinking outside the box does
not necessarily mean tossing aside
everything that is inside. Instead,
consider using an approach that
involves bringing in some new ideas
to complement the things with which
you already have to work.
Take a look at the puzzle. Notice
that in order to connect the dots, or
address the challenge, you don’t go completely outside of the box to do it.
Just cross the perimeter a couple of times, and the puzzle is solved.
In our cover article on pages 6 and 8, California rice farmer, Fritz Durst,
notes that his father’s philosophy was to learn by doing. “He wanted me to
figure things out for myself,” Durst says. “I think this paid off for me
because I’ve been thinking out of the box for quite some time now.”
During the late 1990s, the northern Sacramento Valley was having a problem
with blast in rice, so there was a need to find new areas to grow rice for
seed. Durst was already growing other crops for seed, so he was familiar
with the concept that was, so to speak, “inside the box.” He had a rice rotation
set up and knew how to grow other crops for seed, so he decided to step
across the perimeter and give growing rice seed a try.
Also, when it comes to dealing with herbicide-resistant weed biotypes,
Durst says his associate, Garth Williams, helps him with the thought
process. This doesn’t mean they have to ditch the herbicides all together, but
“think outside the box” and look at field history to figure out how to rotate
them to achieve their weed control goals.
Challenges arise in all aspects of our lives, and when you run into one that
involves your farming operation, study the tried and true options, then try
looking beyond them.
Send your comments to: Editor, Rice Farming Magazine, 1010 June Road, Suite 102, Memphis, Tenn., 38119. Call (901) 767-4020 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.