How Far Outside Your Box? Frontiers Around You

When this was new, do you think they were saying, "It can't get more modern than this!"

I hate to borrow a line from a commercial, but it got my attention the other day: “People say there aren’t any more frontiers; but there are frontiers all around you.”  The challenge to “think outside the box” was a unique way to describe innovative thinking in the ’80’s, and it was so overdone that everyone cringes when you say that phrase now.  But when you are considering paradigm shifts and defining stretch goals, what better way to say that you are reaching out of the walls that confine your thought?

I was driving down the road the other day and thinking to myself, if there were a way to simply will ourselves from Point A to Point B, like the “Transporter” does on Star Trek, what need for roads?  We wouldn’t need a car.  We wouldn’t need sidewalks, or bridges, or doors for that matter.  Think about being in the road construction business or the bridge building business, or in the auto industry, and one day, there were no need for your service.  Your skill set, once valuable, was useless.  What then?

There are a certain amount of people who advocate EMS as a method to save firefighter jobs when fires cease to happen.  Conversely, there are those who say there will always be a need for firefighters, because fire will always be a problem.  Perhaps instead of limiting our vision to these options, consideration must be made for what will we do to reinvent our industry wholesale.  What if robots could be trained to do our jobs?  I’d bet that as late as ten or twenty years ago there were people in the auto industry who thought that there was no way a robot could produce a decent automobile: Now we have robot-assisted surgery.  How much father off do you think it will be before they are making interior attacks?

Anyone who demonstrates an obsession for the status quo and fails to think about the future with an open mind is only setting the table for their eventual obsolescence. Even what might sound like a stupid idea isn’t always too far-fetched.  If you fail to consider the opportunities, you are missing a piece of the puzzle.

From the technical aspect, you might be able to guess at any number of possible eventualities.  I’m interested in the nuances of leadership and command and what changes are in store for us there.  While many think about the possibility of fighting fire without water or providing radical prehospital medical interventions, perhaps you should consider what would happen if we turned the way we lead upside down.  Or if we were MORE of a military-style agency, like if we were brought into a branch of federal government.  Or if everyone was paid.  Or if everyone was volunteer.  There’s no end to “what if…” because while the first few answers might not be plausible ones, they may lead to a prize-winning innovation.

Instead of making statements, every day you should be asking questions.  And while not all change is good, if you don’t consider the effects of certain factors on your organization as they might occur, you might be surprised when they change despite all your best efforts.  As leaders, if we fail to keep an open mind and reconsider every approach to what it is we do, while we may not fail today, we do a disservice to our organization.  Doing things the same way day after day may seem “good enough”, but if you are caught flatfooted when things change overnight, don’t be surprised if you are left standing in your box while everyone else is running around outside it.  Where are the new frontiers?  They surround you, if you reach far enough.


  • Kevin Dawson says:

    Sometimes in life, an idea comes along that makes the world realize that thinking outside the box can be a good thing.

    While I was working in Africa as Fire Chief UN Liberia, I discovered that a product that I had been purchasing for many years from a US company has the potential to make a huge impact on the lives of all people.
    The use of candles in North America is usually optional, however in many other parts of the world the use of candles for illumination is a necessity. In South Africa there are 2 million households and in Liberia 4 million people, as examples, that rely solely on candles for illumination. Similar conditions exist throughout most Third World Countries. The resulting number of candle fires that cause loss of life, injuries and property damage are horrific.
    Now, suppose that we can introduce a safer candle to the people.
    These candles will not start a fire at the base during late-stage burning and will self-extinguish when tipped over.

    Now, let’s look at the “safer candle” as a consumable product that is an alternative to the millions of traditional candles that are used during power failures. Why would the introduction of this product work? Because the cost to the consumer is a fraction of the cost of conventional candles.
    The collateral benefits are what truly interest me. The introduction and wide spread use of these candles will greatly reduce the loss of life, injury and property damage caused by candle related fires. The call-out of local / United Nation Fire Units and security personnel will be greatly reduced again saving money and reducing the number of LODD & injuries to firefighters.

    This can only be considered a Win–Win situation.

    I am requesting an opportunity to meet with your organization, to present this idea and discuss a possible program for its distribution. As stated earlier; I was never a candle salesman, nor was I a manufacturer. I have taken on these rolls because I am an individual with an idea that has the real and immediate potential of helping millions of people.
    I am so confident in this idea and this product that I am willing to meet with anyone, at any level of your organization to make presentations and convince them of its merits. I will do whatever it takes to reach the decision making level of your organization so that we are able to move forward with this Safer Candle Project as quickly as possible.
    Every time there is a candle fire in North America, Liberia, Kenya, Haiti or even The Dominican Republic, I am saddened to think that they could have been easily prevented with the use of Safer Candles. Let’s make it happen!
    I would appreciate any feedback that you are willing to offer, whether it’s positive or negative. These candles are being manufactured in the USA and will be available to the North American market starting in September 2010.
    As stated earlier, any feedback would be appreciated. Emails of interest, requests for ordering information, suggestions, and comments will all help to expedite the manufacturing and distribution process.

    Just watch the Demo Video and I’m sure you will be convinced.

    Knowing that we are all searching for ways to improve fire safety and fire prevention in our communities; let’s work as a team!!!!!

  • Kevin Dawson says:

    Yes! Kevin's Kandles are still going strong.
    Lots of interest from Disaster and Emergency Preparedness Groups as well as Poverty Relief Organizations in Third World Countries.
    Help reduce the risk of accidental candle fires in your community!

  • truck6alpha says:

    Can I quote you? “Firehouse Zen Master Mick Mayers is a thinking chief’s chief. His articles are provocative, thoughtful and leave you with …”

    That sounds like book jacket material!

2 Trackbacks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *