Training “Inside the Box” and Driving Real Performance

Inside-the-box thinking is a business application that encourages and inspires leaders to look within their company and build an internal foundation of fundamental elements upon which an organization can rest.

The greatest companies in the world. The most successful sports teams. The most recognized artistic performances. It doesn’t matter what kind of team, in what kind of sport or industry, or at what level they are performing, we know both from experience and research that when all people are on the same proverbial page—thinking the same things, accepting roles, and clearly understanding direction—there is a much greater chance for victory and success.

In business today, that victory comes in many shapes and sizes. To the leader, it often is defined by increased bottom-line performance. To the manager, it is retention of key workers. To the work force, it is increased happiness with the job, fewer mistakes in the daily grind, and greater connectivity to the company. Whatever the definition, we know the constant transition and daily chaos in business today makes each of those forms of victory more elusive.

Leaders focus on training up their workforce around important initiatives and strategic imperatives. And while the training can be effective, at least in the short term, employees often accept the training without fully embracing its connectivity to the bigger picture. Understanding the why of what leaders are expecting is important. Without that complete understanding, employees are trained in silos and often see only the short-term opportunity.

Our success in training has come from both implementing a different educational framework and recommitting to humanizing the learning experience.

A Rethought Framework
We have been conditioned as a society to believe that outside-the-box thinking is what drives creativity, innovation, and performance. Our work over several decades has proven that, in fact, inside-the-box thinking is the real driver of performance. It provides leaders with definition to their organization and it gives connectivity to the workforce. Inside-the-box thinking provides clarity for a business, which improves people, profit, and performance.

Inside-the-box thinking is a business application that encourages and inspires leaders to look within their company and build an internal foundation of fundamental elements upon which an organization can rest. While most companies focus on innovation marketing and outward problem solving (outside-the-box thinking), Deutser instead encourages leaders to looking within and think about their organizational DNA. By building your box, leaders are focusing on the longevity and sustainability of their companies, as well as their employees’ happiness and performance. When we are able to train from within the box, employees understand why they are being trained, how it connects to the whole of the company, and where their work fits in the larger organizational imperatives and environment.

The key is to understand the construct and define the unique box for each company. Interestingly, the box is not a flat, one-dimensional box. Rather, it is six sided, with four sides, as well as a top and bottom. The four sides comprise the organization’s distinct:

  1. Direction
  2. Operations
  3. People
  4. Engagement

The bottom of the box comprises the organizational identity, and the top is the environmental forces that influence and directly impact the business. When leaders are able to clearly articulate each side of the box, it increases the employees’ level of work, elevates their commitment to the company and its direction, improves culture, and enhances the workforce’s ability to learn and improve. Inside the box is where clarity is found, and performance is raised.

The Clarity Process

The Clarity Process is a reliable, replicable, five-step process:

  1. Analyze and identify the four sides of the box.
  2. Understand the dimensionality of the organization by defining the top and bottom of the box.
  3. Assess alignments and misalignments across the organization by using the box.
  4. Identify the key business levers to drive performance
  5. Humanize the box and make the connection.


Leaders, coaches, and trainers constantly are looking for new ways to engage employees at fundamentally different levels. Creating the box and then working to bring it to life allows new levels of connectivity and understanding. Accepting that our employees are voracious consumers of information requires us to leverage the box and infuse creativity and life into the information and learning we are working to share. This forces companies to not simply teach in traditional ways, but to share content in fresh, modern, and innovative ways—of course, anchored by the box.

The box provides the framework that then demands a measure of creativity that is equally unique. For our clients, we will train leadership teams with over-the-top events that get them excited and deliver content at a different level. We will use traditional and non-traditional materials to get people to see the same information in different ways—leveraging puzzles, learning maps, card decks, and even games (for example, we repurposed the children’s holiday toy, Elf on the Shelf, as a “safety elf” to drive training and safety messaging across the workforce).


Inside-the-box thinking, and, thus, “inside-the-box” training, is a game changer. By leveraging the box and creating connectivity to the things that matter most inside the company, leaders are better equipped to lead, and the workforce is better able to understand and connect the dots that previously had been left disconnected. When this happens, learning increases exponentially and performance is unleashed across the organization.

Brad Deutser is founder and CEO of management consulting firm Deutser and the Deutser Clarity Institute, a think tank, idea accelerator, and innovative learning center. He is also the author of “Leading Clarity: A Breakthrough Strategy to Unleash People, Profit, and Performance” (Wiley, 2018). Deutser has transformed many prominent educational, health-care, energy, industrial services, professional services, private equity, retail, and cause-based organizations through his unique perspective on organizational clarity. He is a leading business consultant, creative strategist, executive coach, and counselor to top corporate leaders working to build great companies inside and out. To learn more, visit: and