Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture

If you haven’t read the book, read it.  Amazing.  Here is a video clip of the actual “last lecture” he gave.  It’s long, but well worth your time and loaded with great advice for college students!


“Randy Pausch was a professor of Computer Science, Human Computer Interaction, and Design at Carnegie Mellon University. From 1988 to 1997, he taught at the University of Virginia. He was an award-winning teacher and researcher, and worked with Adobe, Google, Electronic Arts (EA), and Walt Disney Imagineering, and pioneered the non-profit Alice project. (Alice is an innovative 3-D environment that teaches programming to young people via storytelling and interactive game-playing.) He also co-founded The Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon with Don Marinelli. (ETC is the premier professional graduate program for interactive entertainment as it is applies across a variety of fields.) Randy lost his battle with pancreatic cancer on July 25th, 2008.”

“Out-of-Box, In-the-Box, New-Box, Other-Box, No-Box Thinking”

Out-of-Box, In-the-Box, New-Box, Other-Box, No-Box Thinking
By Robert Alan Black, Ph.D.

For years supporters and detractors of creative thinking in the workplace have talked about Out-of-the-Box Thinking. The supporters, often consultants and researchers, have stressed the easiest way for people to be creative was to think out-of-the-box, to break their paradigms or mindsets, their ways of thinking.

The detractors have pointed out often the damage such thinking can produce and stressed the counteractive effects upon the total organization and its more global goals and mission.

Within organizations particular departments have been labelled out-of-the-box: R&D, Marketing, Human Resource Department and Creative Services and resisted by the finance, purchasing, administration, shipping, and other departments who prefer to stay in their carefully constructed boxes or the boxes provided for them.

As a consultant, speaker and college professor I have promoted the development of out-of-the-box thinking in all people, all departments for about 20 years, normally to a thundering thud of silence.

Occasionally creative type departments will entertain the idea of learning how to leave boxes but generally they already know how. Their problems center on the debris, anger, frustration they leave in their wake when they do tear done or damage boxes.

Recently in an email message, Chris Barlow, Ph.D., professor at IITs Management Department and long-time fellow CPSI faculty member and colleague challenged me on an apparent emphasis on out-of-the-box thinking as the primary source of creative thinking.

Instantaneous flash of the obvious occurred. An Aha!

Stressing mainly or even only out-of-the-box thinking excludes a wealth of other sources of creativity:

in-the-box, no-box, new-box, other-box thinking

Immediately jumping out of a box or tearing it down eliminates many possibilities of ideas and solutions that can come from staying in-the-box. If we stay in our box we can examine what has worked?, what hasnt worked?, what might work if we only….?, how can we capitalize on what is working while still changing or improving it?

By forcing ourselves to leave our box we cut ourselves off from the not-yet-understoods or not-thoroughly communicated or experienced existing knowledge within our existing box. Or as Sid Shore has tried to teach us for many years, Whats Good About It (our box)?

By using new box thinking instead of out-of-the-box thinking we provide ourselves with controllable and measurable limits or useful restraints.

New Box Thinking is a controlled form of out-of-the-box thinking. The best analogy is one that Edward de Bono has used often to describe the difference between vertical thinking (box) and lateral thinking (out-of-the-box, actually new box). He has written that vertical thinking is comparable to digging the same hole deeper to find the treasure and horizontal or lateral thinking is digging new holes in many locations (new boxes).

Out-of-the-box thinking would go beyond simply digging new holes it might involve looking in the air, under the sea or using other tools or methods beyond simply a shovel As Abraham Maslow has told us, If you see your only tool as a hammer (shovel), then you will see all your problems as nails (holes to be dug).

Other-Box Thinking involves leaving yours and entering someone elses once again with the Whats Good About It? philosophy. An example might be for the creative department to send people to work in the finance, purchasing, shipping, manufacturing departments to learn what the grass on the other side of the fence is really like in the other boxes. Benefits might be:

1) greater understandings of the benefits of the other boxes,

2) a sharing of commonalties within boxes,

3) ways to integrate and interlock boxes.

Another example often used in todays business and industry is for employees from a manufacturing company to visit and work with people in their various supplier or vendor companies to understand their boxes and to share about their own with them.

No-Box Thinking might mean complete open thinking with no limits or Virtual/Transparent-Box Thinking. No-Box thinking challenges the greatest majority of people because of the tremendously potential risks involved. Anything can wrong at any time. There is no box to provide any protection. No fortress or castle walls. Yet if people are encouraged to use out-of-the-box thinking as part of their job, a small percentage at first expanding as they are ready.

3M is reported to encourage their research people to spend up to 15% of their time on exploratory projects, thinkingout- of-the-box, while still accomplishing the 100% of their work they have contracted to complete within the other 85% of their time. Post-It notes are but one example of this approach.

Its interesting that in elementary schools and some middle schools across the country teachers have been using this reward approach to provide students with time during their school day for out-of-the-box thinking time and projects of their own choosing, if and only if they complete their required work early.

Virtual/Imaginary Box thinking may provide the best of both in and out thinking. The box is there in the form of policies and principles yet the employees are allowed to look out of their box or even venture out knowing that they can always return to the security and safety of their box.

Next time you consider breaking out of your box consider these other options.

1. Re-look at the box you think you are in. It may actually not have permanent, impregnable walls as you current believe or think.

2.Look within to solutions you have never considered or can reconsider from the past. Work within the box.

3. Visit other boxes, within or without your organization. Much can be learned and shared with the inhabitants.

4. Experiment at least part of the time with having no boxes. Perhaps keep a tether attached back to your box just in case. Even the most experienced mountain climbers rarely climb unattached.

5. Encourage the use of virtual or transparent wall materialfor your box.

6. Gradually teach others the benefits of out-of-the-box thinking, while you learn the benefits you have never considered that lie within the boxes where you already are.

Remember our boxes are in our minds most of the time.

Tenant of the Week!

This week’s Tenant of the Week !

Casey Peterson


I was lucky enough to learn how to sew in my middle school and have more or less kept it up over the years. Last summer, I started making a quilt for myself and brought my sewing machine to school with the intent of finishing the quilt during the school year. That did not happen, but as people commented on my old Singer machine and expressed interest in learning how to sew, I had a new idea. I contacted the costume department at the CFA about creating an abstract quilt out of recycled fabric. They willingly donated a massive amount of fabric they were going to otherwise throw out as well as a second sewing machine. I set up my space at the Old Stone Mill, put up signs around campus, and sent out a bunch of e-mails. Throughout the semester, about 10 volunteers came down to learn how to sew (if they didn’t know already) and help me make my quilt. We had a lot of fun, and I’m really pleased with the way the quilt came out. It’s truly the product of many fabrics and many hands. It will be put on display in The Grille sometime next week!

The TIMES: 10 Ideas for the Next Ten Years

It’s springtime and new ideas are in the air!

Check out TIME Magazine’s “10 Ideas for the Next Ten Years” for a little inspiration….


Perhaps Ben Meader is on to something with his cartography project, ‘Middlebury Mosaic.” The TIMES  suggests we begin Remapping the World…

Tenant of the Week!

We are starting a new tradition at the Old Stone Mill of featuring one tenant’s project each week, with the hope that people from the wider Middlebury community can find out what’s happening!

This week’s (and our first T.O.T.W)  is Hannah Day. In her own words:

Tenant of the Week, 4/5/2010

Tenant of the Week, 4/5/2010

the extended brain

in a world in which we are ceaselessly subjected to ideas and messages of all kinds, whether they are directed at us or simply a thread in the tangled and ever-changing mass of information in which we are all enmeshed, we – especially those of us with the luxury of choice – end up spending much of our time trying to navigate. in pursuit of the best route, we actively attempt to prescribe meaning to our behaviors, our identities, our lives. we continually shape and reshape them so they will conform to our ideal state of being, the even-keeled vessel that will take us the right way. but while there is the meaning that we make, what is the meaning that makes us?

my project began as an attempt to understand the things that strike us – that cause even the quickest twinge within us – in our everyday lives, and what they reveal about our true natures and the kinds of vessels we really are. i have been working primarily with quotes and pieces of writing that are meaningful to me – meaningful in the sense that they make me feel something, even if i don’t understand why. although the project is personal because i am the one collecting the material, it is about discovering what we all can gain – as individuals and communities – from exploring our own intuition, when we slow down and begin to notice what connects with a deeper part of us, and to try and understand why. when we are trying to decide what is right, we may look to the blueprints of the ideal we carry around for an answer. but who are these designs right for? if we can begin to pay attention to what stirs us,  perhaps we will discover that the answers are all around us.

The Middlebury Moth

Come hear the stories of your fellow students tomorrow night (Thursday, April 1) at the second Middlebury Moth

Where: The Gamut Room

When: 10:00-11:30pm

The Middlebury Moth brings you another unforgettable night of true stories told live onstage without notes.

This week’s theme is
ON THE ROAD: Stories About Travel

and will feature hilarious, fascinating and heartbreaking stories from:

Professor Kit Wilson
Linda Schiffer
Michaela Lieberman ‘10.5
Ashton Coghlan ’11
Cloe Shasha ’11
Ben Wessel ‘11.5
Andrew Powers ‘11.5
Joey Radu ’13

and the amazing Steve Small!

Don’t miss it.

And don’t forget to check out The Middlebury Moth podcast athttp://themothmiddlebury.mypodcast.com, or at the iTunes music store

Welcome! and Ted Talks from Monday Night


Welcome to the Old Stone Mill Blog. We (the board and tenants) will be putting up links, events and cool, creative, innovative words up here to keeps us all up to date on the goings-on of OSM. We hope that this will grow and evolve as more members of the community become involved with the Old Stone Mill.

So… to start us off, here are the links to the three talks (one of which failed, due to a faulty internet connection) we screened on Monday at OSM. Enjoy and have a great spring break!!!

Majora Carter on Urban Renewal:


Ken Robinson on Schools and Creativity

and the LXD (Legion of Extraordinary Dancers)



the OSM Board