Life outside the box

Much of daily life depends on conventions, both intellectual and social. We learn how to see the world from certain perspectives, to solve problems in given ways. Often, we are not aware of those conventions until someone surprises us by challenging them.

In the larger social scheme, such challenges occur frequently, but only rarely do they stick and transform the unconventional into convention itself. The social upheavals of the 1950s and 1960s illustrate how slow and painful such change can be.

In the technology field, of course, progress is paramount and challenges encouraged. But unconventional thinking does not come easily to most people. It is difficult to ask questions or propose solutions that do not follow established patterns or slip into familiar pitfalls.

In our first feature story, we provide a fresh perspective for 2005 by highlighting some of the unconventional ideas that have surfaced recently in the government community and have gained enough currency to be worth a debate.

Next is an interview with Steve Kelman, former director of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy. Kelman, an agent of change extraordinaire in the 1990s, talks about the challenges of introducing new ways of thinking in the federal government.

Then, we profile seven other individuals who have earned reputations as unconventional thinkers. Some might say that such people know where the box is but prefer to think outside it.

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