Thinking inside the box

Surrounded by young people and smart faculty, I see a lot of creative, “outside the box” approaches to today’s business problems and questions. The phrase “outside the box” is hackneyed and hollow — often a placeholder twhen a manager is stalled in tackling a business decision.

When this happens, should we look to history for answers? When you constantly innovate, push forward and think ahead, when should we pause to look to the past, to what worked before? The basic functions of lodging and food-and-beverage service have changed dramatically on some levels, but on others, a clean, safe room and meals served with kindness are not so different as they were a millennium or two ago. 

A popular maxim is, “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” In the classroom, though, we know “war stories” from the business arena are not enough to help teach our next leaders the skills and creativity to solve the global, complex problems of travel and tourism. 

So in what situations should we seek to look “inside the box” for the answer? And when do we go back to find a future solution?