Recently I took up coloring as a stress relieving activity as I was prohibited from doing my usual exercise regime. See Lessons From My Ruptured Spleen. Coloring for adults with pencils or markers in intricate designs and patterns has gained in popularity lately.  When I saw the coloring book Lost Ocean by Johanna Basford at Costco I had to try it. I borrowed my daughter’s Crayola Twistables Colored Pencils and started to color. For me, coloring is totally addictive in the “can’t put it down until I finish” way. 

Historically, people who stay within the lines have been looked down on as conventional, possibly boring and definitely not creative. This attitude was exhibited in the 1992 Isuzu Rodeo commercial a stodgy teacher urges young students to “stay within the lines”. The commercial then cuts to the grown-up student, hair blowing in the breeze, in an Isuzu Rodeo which she ultimately drives off road. The implication in this commercial is that she is unconventional, cool, fun and daring by straying outside of the lines. 

Today, the corollary to “stay within the lines” is the popular business mantra to “think outside the box”. In a business context, outside the box has the same connotation as outside the lines, it is unconventional, cool and by implication more creative.

With the adult coloring trend, millions of people are taking pleasure in staying within the lines and inside the proverbial box while displaying creativity in their technique, color choices and combinations. With these intricate designs each time you pick up a colored pencil you are exercising creativity. Coloring made me realize that convention and creativity are not mutually exclusive.

In business, you can execute a conventional idea with creativity and flare. Choices you make about words, design, and delivery can change conventional communications from mundane to extraordinary.  I will remember this the next time someone exhorts me to think outside the box.

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