There should be no box to begin with!
I was recently reading the profiles of the Association of MBAs regional committee and this phrase attracted my attention:
"[Derek Chesire believes] that 'out of the box' thinking does not exist: there simply should be no box to begin with".
Yes absolutely! I like this simple way to put it. I suppose what he really meant is that out of the box in fact does exist but is mostly ineffective at generating innovation and competitive advantage.
An organisation with a culture not conducive to creativity where knowledge sharing and spontaneous collaboration is not encouraged and rewarded, will eventually feel the need to ask from its employees to "think outside the box" in the hope that some good ideas will come out of the exercise. Out of the few good ideas that might come out, only very few of them (if any) will lead to an innovative implementation. This is because this process (idea through to implementation) requires an environment where mistakes are not only permitted but encouraged, where work outside initial job description and spontaneous collaboration is natural and rewarded.
When an organisation with an organisational culture not conducive to knowledge-sharing and creativity ask its employees to be creative, it is a bit like asking a group of junior mechanics to build a racing car from a pile of spare-parts, without the authorisation to collaborate with one another! You might obtain a car eventually but very unlikely competitive.
It's much more effective to let the group of mechanics organise themselves as a team and let them work out what they can build together. That way, they could come up with the next F1 concept car!