Libro 36/52 :: Inside The Box by Drew Boyd and Jacob Goldenberg.



I’m a big fan of AMC’s The Pitch. Each week, 2 advertising agencies go head-to-head for the opportunity to represent a brand like Little Caesar’s or 1-800-FLOWERS or Gibson Guitars.


You’d think these agencies would deliver outside the box thinking aplenty.

Interestingly, none of the pitches really do.


The pitches are simple and catchy and memorable.

But they’re not “outside the box.”


The pitches are the opposite of that.

They’re inside the box.

They’re close to the main idea of the business, but from a different angle – a unique perspective.


If you consider some of the most iconic advertising efforts of all time, most of them would also lean inside the box vs. outside the box.


Weiden + Kennedy’s Just Do It. for Nike… Inside the box.

TBWA/Chiat/Day’s Think Different. for Apple… Inside the box.

DDB’s Think Small. for Volkswagon… Inside the box.




These three examples along with The Pitch demonstrate the core of Inside The Box by Drew Boyd and Jacob Goldenberg.


Inside The Box explains the creative process known as Systematic Inventive Thinking where creativity stems from focusing on the area immediately around you.


Whereas “outside the box” has become a cliche for any type of creative thinking – it means nothing and everything – Inside The Box is a framework for “closed-world” creative thinking.


The authors stress the “closed-world” aspect because the primary constraint is the small world around us.

Not outside the box… inside the box.


Constraints are the key creativity.


While this initially sounds ludicrous, a Thunderdome-style creativity process (The only rule is there are no rules!) like team brainstorming often results in a high quantity of ideas without much quality. In these cases, the loudest and/or biggest title rule the day.


But constraints broaden your creativity by setting limitations and forcing you to choose only the essential. A personal example is the 500-word limit I place on my Libro 52 posts. Without a word limit, I’d ramble on for 1000 words before looking up. Rarely would this benefit the reader.


Speaking of writing, the best-selling author of all-time used format constraints. Agatha Christie wrote 85 books and sold a few billion (yes… billion) of them. She used templates that could be replicated over and over.


So how’d she sell a few billion books if they are so templatey?

The details were very creative.

They had to be.


Screen shot 2013-09-30 at 10.57.41 AM


Inside The Box presents closed-world creativity templates in a very readable way. This was a fun read although the templates initially read like an arithmetic text:


  1. Subtraction
  2. Division
  3. Multiplication
  4. Task Unification
  5. Attribute dependency


The concepts are fairly simple. They get your mind whirring immediately as you think about the products (and processes) you purchase or create. I went through 70+ waiter’s pads thinking about Red Angle content.


All the templates begin by asking, “What might the benefits be of applying Template X? Who might the customer be?” 


For Subtraction, consider Apple.

The iPod was a raging success.
Likewise the iPhone, which in many ways made the iPod obsolete.


Someone posed the question, “What if we took the iPhone and removed the phone?


When I first saw the product I thought it was the dumbest thing ever.

An iPhone… that wasn’t an iPhone.



It was an iPod Touch.

Apple sold 60M of them.


Or the iPod predecessor – the Walkman – a cassette recorder minus the recorder.


Or my 2-year old is now riding a “strider” – a bike without pedals.



The Multiplication template includes Gillette’s twin blade system (no – adding a 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th blade is not innovative, it’s ridiculous.)


An example of Task Unification is a merry-go-round playground equipment built for Sub-Saharan Africa. As the children spin it, it also acts a deep well pump for much needed water for the community. The product unifies 2 previously disparate activities.


Throughout the book, the authors do a fantastic job of explaining the templates.

They include multiple real-world examples based on products you know of or have purchased.



Bottom Line: Inside The Box will make you think more creatively. Within 50 pages you will start seeing solutions and begin working backwards to some truly creative ideas. This book worked for me. Instead of another marginally useful (useless?) brainstorming session, read this book instead.



Screen shot 2013-09-30 at 10.58.37 AM


Bradley Hartmann is El Presidente at Red Angle ( He blew through his 500-word constraint on this post, but it was deliberate.





LIBRO 52 Challenge YTD

1. Kennedy/Nixon by Chris Matthews

2. Poke the Box by Seth Godin

3. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn 

NA. Buy-In by John Kotter and Lorne Whitehead

4. Education of an Accidental CEO by David Novak

5. Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

6. Blood, Brains and Beer by David Ogilvy

7. Lyndon Johnson :: Master of the Senate by Robert Caro

8. 1776 by David McCullough

9. To Sell Is Human by Dan Pink

NA. Profiles In Courage by JFK*

10. Write It When I’m Gone by Tom DeFrank

11. FDR by Jean Edward Smith

12. The Cluetrain Manifesto by Locke, Searls, Weinberger + Levine

13. One Click by Richard Brandt

14. Persuasive Presentations by Nancy Duarte

NA. James K. Polk by Walter Borneman

15. The Greatest Generation by Tom Brokaw

16. The Illustrious Dead by Stephan Talty

17. The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk

18. Adventures of Johnny Bunko by Dan Pink

19. Thunderstruck by Erik Larson

20. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

21. Ctrl Alt Delete by Mitch Joel

22. Down & Dirty Pictures by Peter Biskind

23. Makers by Chris Anderson

24. Tales from Q School by John Feinstein

25. The Business of Belief by Tom Asacker

26. 18 Minutes by Peter Bregman

27. Drive by Dan Pink

28. Enough by John Bogle

29. Contagious by Jonah Berger

30. Lexicon by Max Barry

31. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

32. A Very Short Tour of the Mind by Michael Corballis

33. The No Asshole Rule by Robert Sutton

34. Choose Yourself by James Altucher

35. The Halo Effect by Phil Rosenzweig

36. Inside The Box by Drew Boyd and Jacob Goldenberg

Categories: Libro 52 Challenge

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5 replies


  1. Libro 37 + 38/52 :: The Power of Less by Leo Babauta + Wild by Cheryl Strayed « the red angle
  2. Libro 39/52 :: Big Data by Viktor Mayer-Schonberger and Kenneth Cukier. « the red angle
  3. Libro 42/52 :: Black Irish by Stephan Talty « the red angle
  4. Libro 43/52 :: The Firm by Duff McDonald « the red angle
  5. Libros 44-50 :: The final chapter of the Libro 52* Challenge. « the red angle

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