Thinking Outside the Packaging Box

by Todd McDonald on May 16, 2014

At TEQ, we often say we “think outside the box” to come up with solutions to the variety of challenges our customers face. While this phrase is certainly overused in business, its meaning has psychological roots that are quite interesting – and important for us to keep in mind each and every day.

In 1945, Karl Duncker, a member of the Gestalt school of Psychology, conducted the first experiment to demonstrate that our brains can be trained to a way of thinking so completely that the ability to see obvious alternatives is virtually non-existent.

In this experiment (known as the Candle Box experiment) Duncker gave subjects a box containing a candle, some matches and some thumb tacks, and instructed them to attach the candle to the wall. Most tried tacking the candle to the wall, but the tacks were too short. Others lit the candle and attempted to sue the melted wax to stick the candle to the wall. However, only a small number of people put the candle in the box and tacked it to the wall. Instead of seeing the box as a tool, most saw its role simply to hold the tools for the experiment. In other words, they couldn’t “think outside the box”.

So, how do we think outside the box, and solve complex challenges with the resources we have on hand, at TEQ?

Consider this example.

We were recently tasked with creating a sterile package for a medical device over 69 inches long using existing tooling that could efficiently shipped and distributed using a standard pallet size of 40” x 48”.  Impossible?

Not when we thought outside the box, broke free of the concept of creating one extra long package and incorporated several smaller interlocking trays into our design.

We had created clamshells with interlocking button or perimeter snaps many times before, for electronics, retail and food packaging. What had not been done before was applying this concept to the design of a sterile barrier system for an exceedingly large-sized medical device.

The result not only allowed the product to be efficiently produced without creating new thermoforming tooling and machinery, its design also allowed for easy, unencumbered product removal, with the tray’s unique interlocking joints allowing for one easy motion disassembly and disposal, unlike other long package designs that require bending and folding.

What about you? What are some ways your business has thought outside of the box, and used existing resources to solve a challenging problem?

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