Armstrong’s Examination of Non-Profit Potential Using the Think Inside the Box Method

Remove seemingly essential elements

Music services usually focus on instrument rental and/or instrument instruction.  These are “givens.”  If they are removed as “givens,” what’s left?  The physical space, the belonging to an organization, socializing with other students, collaboration.  It is also possible to be the middle-man for instrument rental and instruction, to provide a method in which instrument suppliers and instrument renters can find each other or instructors and students can find each other.  With the removal of the “givens,” there is less required commitment upfront, increasing consumer’s freedom to customize their services and create unique musical experiences.  When providing music services to inner-city students, this level of individuality and customization could be key.

Bring together unrelated tasks or functions

College-level mentors/tutors can have highly positive influences on the academic and life success of junior high or high school students.   One other activity that I feel has the potential to promote focus, connection, and critical and creative thinking is improvisation.  If the inner-city program involved college-level mentors/tutors who were also musicians with the ability to improvise, they could be helping students work through challenging social and academic concepts and wrapping up the sessions by teaching musical improvisation, having jam sessions, etc.  It would be an enjoyable experience for both parties, and I believe it would also have a strong positive impact on the student’s ability to think about life and schoolwork in new and different ways.

Copy a component and then alter it

Usually, there is a regularly scheduled weekly lesson to see what the student has done with the assignment given at the last lesson.  To copy and alter the component, students and instructors could have a shorter catch-up lesson in between the regularly scheduled lesson to answer student questions, keep the student motivated and on-task, and move forward faster when possible.

Separate the components of a product or service and rearrange them

Usually, someone who decides to take music lessons goes through a process such as:

  1. choose an instrument
  2. rent the instrument
  3. take lessons
  4. eventually achieve a level of proficiency
  5. share successes and progress with family and friends about once a year
  6. collaborate with others at your level of proficiency
  7. seek out ways to continue using what you’ve learned

Rearranging the process could like something like:

  1. rent instruments for a day or two
  2. meet with instructors and other students to see which instrument and instructor you like best
  3. choose an instrument and start lessons with an instructor
  4. share successes and progress with family and friends as often as you like
  5. collaborate with others
  6. seek out ways to use what you’ve learned
  7. achieve a level of proficiency
  8. repeat any of the steps above

Make the attributes of a product change in response to changes in another attribute or in the surrounding environment

  • When a student reaches a new progress level, the student can view on the online collaborative platform new/more people at the newly achieved level with whom the student can collaborate.
  • Inner-city collaborations can be predetermined based on a few students doing well in school (within the program or not) and one student not doing well in school.  The ratio could be kept at 2 to 1 minimum.
  • Lesson frequency changes in response to student’s preparedness and the rate of student’s progress (not just because it’s 5pm on Tuesday).
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