What Does it Mean to Think Outside the Box?

Thinking outside the box is a phrase that is used everywhere in the corporate world, from board meetings to job postings. It seems that everyone is obsessed with thinking outside this ‘box’. The problem is many people don’t even know what the ‘box’ is, or what it means to think outside of it.

While this phrase is meant to encourage people to approach problems in a new, creative way, it is also is vague and doesn’t give direct instruction or a desired result, so many of us are stuck when we are told to think outside the box. If this applies to you, and you are currently being encouraged to approach problem solving in a more creative manner at work, read on for some expert tips on how to achieve this.

To begin, you need to identify your usual way of approaching situations at work and write them down. What is your modus operandi when it comes to dealing with problems or challenges? Once you have it down on paper, you will start to see your patterns of behavior and identify where you can be more creative to get better results.

Next, you need to be more creative! This is easier said than done for some people, but we all have the ability to expand our minds and enjoy the creative process. Here are some easy ways to be more creative (a.k.a. think outside the box) at work:

  • Map it out. Even if you have terrible drawing skills, draw a visual map of your problem-solving process. This makes the right-brain take over from the left-brain, and your creativity flourishes.
  • Work backwards. Instead of going from Point A to B, start with the desired outcome and work your way backwards to the starting point. This is a great technique if you are facing one of those “I don’t even know where to begin!” kind of challenges!
  • Let your ideas flow. If you are trying to generate ideas for a solution, turn off your editor mode and go for quantity over quality. Write down any ideas that come into your head no matter how ridiculous they sound. Once you are done, review them all and you will be surprised at how many of your ‘dumb’ ideas are actually quite good, and may hold the key to your solution.
  • Never dismiss a problem. Saying, ”It simply can’t be done” is a way to throw in the towel without really trying to solve the problem.
  • If all else fails, take a shower. Yes, you read right! Creative professionals have long sworn by this method for freeing their minds and attracting creative thoughts. Maybe it’s the relaxing sound of water, or the fact that we are naked and ‘free’ in the shower, no one knows. In any case, this is a fun and easy one to try out!