We are so often asked to “think outside of the box” that the phrase has almost reached a cliché status. What does it really mean, and how can you train yourself to do it?
The first step in changing your perception is to acknowledge your background and biases. Consider the following excerpts taken from Horace Miner’s 1956 Body Ritual among the Nacirema, which describes a North American tribe.
The focal point of the shrine is a box or chest which is built into the wall. In this chest are kept the many charms and magical potions without which no native believes he could live. These preparations are secured from a variety of specialized practitioners. The most powerful of these are the medicine men, whose assistance must be rewarded with substantial gifts. However, the medicine men do not provide the curative potions for their clients, but decide what the ingredients should be and then write them down in an ancient and secret language. This writing is understood only by the medicine men and by the herbalists who, for another gift, provide the required charm.
The medicine men have an imposing temple, or ‘latipso’, in every community of any size. The more elaborate ceremonies required to treat very sick patients can only be performed at this temple. These ceremonies involve […] a permanent group of vestal maidens who move sedately about the temple chambers in distinctive costume and headdress.
Now that you’ve read about the strange culture of the Nacirema, try spelling Nacirema and latipso(h) backwards. What do you find?
Did you immediately pick up on the connection or did you view this tribe as something out of National Geogrpahic? When I first encountered the way that doctors’ visits, prescriptions and hospitals could be viewed by an outsider, it made me second-guess what point of view I take for granted. This exercise is intended to call attention to the reader’s inherent biases which can jumpstart your mind into thinking outside the box.
Check out the full article at the link below. Have you seen or worked with the Nacirema exercise before? Do you have an example of a time when you’ve been jolted out of your point of view? If so, share with us in the comments below.
Horace Miner’s Body Ritual Among the Nacirema
Think Outside the Box by freeflyer09