Tools & Strategies for Resilience Building – The Three Box Solution

Questions that are always top of mind for us as we seek to identify the Routes to Resilience include: How can we better equip ourselves with the tools and strategies that encourage us to be active global citizens with high levels of dynamic resilience? Which aspects of resilience can be developed with knowledge and practice, and which are more an innate part of our personal genetic makeup?

The reality is that today’s youth are inheriting a world that is facing major challenges, from widespread poverty to food insecurity and the climate crisis. No-one is immune to the impact or the change it requires us all to make. On top of this, new innovations and emerging technology are changing the way we work at a rapid rate. This means jobs that we thought we would have till retirement might not exist even within five years making it all the more important that we are able to be agile, to unlearn and relearn new skills, thought patterns, and career paths.

While there are many different ways and activities to practice and nurture core problem-solving skills, a toolset can provide young people with a helpful framework.  In this new blog series, Tools & Strategies for Resilience Building, we will explore, question and share different approaches, tools and strategies that are useful in building resilience developing the diversity of 21st Century Skills we are all going to need to navigate our way to a successful, sustainable and resilient future.  Each fortnight we will seek to identify a new tool or strategy and consider the skill set(s) it encourages us to develop.

In this first edition, we take a look at the “Three Box Solution”, sometimes likened or referred to as “Keep, Stop, Start”.  This relatively simple but profound tool can help encourage us to exercise our analytical skills and Growth Mindset, develop our scenario planning skills and strategic foresight and harness our potential for innovation, entrepreneurialism, octopus (hybrid) talents, agility and adaptability.  It can support our taking initiative, strengthen our commitment to persistence and self-discipline and, importantly, develop the skill and capacity to identify when to let go and stop persevering at something that is not contributing positively.

The Three Box Solution

Developed by professor and best-selling author, Vijay Govindarajan, the Three Box Solution is a useful tool to help foster innovation, encourage agility, creativity and disciplined persistence. While the tool is well known and used by some of the largest companies across the globe, we think it’s also a brilliant tool for anyone wanting to innovate, develop themselves and their teams, and accelerate their learning journey.

The concept behind the Three Box Solution is straightforward – in order to innovate and change, you have to manage your past, present and future needs, activities, knowledge, influences and skills. To do this, list all your activities and assign them to one of the three boxes:

  • Box 1: Present
    • Optimise your current activities by managing them at peak efficiency and profitability (KEEP DOING what works)
  • Box 2:  Past
    • Let go of the practices, ideas and attitudes that may no longer be relevant, or are becoming destructive (STOP DOING what doesn’t work)
  • Box 3:  Future
    • Transform your breakthrough ideas into new products and businesses (START DOING)

While most of us are often solely focused on Box 1, managing present activities, Vijay argues that time and resources must also be allocated to also managing Boxes 2 and 3.  If we don’t let something go from the present that is not working, we won’t have space to move to the future and what could be. Aligning all three boxes is hard work. In the work context, it may be that different teams are responsible for core Box 1 activities (where skills of focus, discipline, persistent, endurance are important) whilst others are engaged to create, design and execute Box 3 innovations.  

Applying the Three Box Solution

While the Three Box Solution has been developed with businesses in mind, the core framework provides a powerful tool to help young people assess their activities, ditch unfruitful thinking or actions, and innovate, learn or develop.

Here are three questions you can use to help young people apply the Three Box Solution:

  1. What actions must you preserve or continue? (KEEP)
  2. What can you let go of in order to free up space to innovate/develop/learn? (STOP)
  3. What can you explore to move toward your goal? (START)

The Three Box Solution is a continuous cycle. You are always preserving the present that works well and supports you, weeding out what hasn’t worked (or what is unlikely to work going forward) and building the future. The things you create in Box 3 today will at some point become the ingredients for your new Box 1 and 2.

Now we would love to hear from you! What are your thoughts on the Three Box Solution – a helpful tool to foster resilience? Let us know in the comments below.