Thinking outside of the box

“I need someone who thinks out of the box.” You hear it all the time. But what does it mean?

According to Wikipedia, ‘Thinking outside the box entails a thinking process, which comprehends the implementation of an unusual approach to the logical thinking structure. It’s a procedure which aims to escape relational reasoning and thinking’.

So where precisely, is this famous ‘box’ that we’re all supposed to think outside of? What’s up in that blue sky that we all ought to be thinking about? Business gurus seem to specialise in finding complicated phrases to describe something simple. But in essence, they’re right. We need to be more creative, the ‘light bulb moment’. You really do not need to go on a course or read a book to solve problems and to make decisions, right?

“Start thinking outside the box and find a solution for this problem”, is a statement when the quality of ideas and solutions starts to decrease. Imagine you would be living in an invisible atmosphere that envelops your whole body, which is symbolic for the box you are living in (the box you will have to abandon when trying to think outside the box).

Thinking outside the box means that you cast off the atmosphere that envelops you, step out of the box, leave all your experiences, mindsets and attitudes behind and start to view things from a completely different perspective: outside of the box; unfiltered, unbiased, open to suggestions, willing to empathise with others opinions, but also ready to swim against the flood and to think what no one else has ever thought of. It also means that you leave everything behind you thought you would know, everything that was thought to you in school and start to approach specific situations and problems from a completely different point of view than you did before.

Unconventional thinking leads to incredible new possibilities!

I think the above describes it pretty good what it means to think outside the box, however I would also like to show you an excellent example of a person who was clearly thinking within the box: Charles H. Duell, who was the Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, who said the following: “Everything that can be invented has been invented.”

Duell’s statement is a fantastic example of thinking inside the box, par excellence. The quote, however, gets even more remarkable when considering that he made this statement in 1899, when people were still traveling by horse and train, long before automobiles, airplanes, jets, spaceships, microwaves, computers and mobile phones were invented.

The ability to think outside the box requires above all one thing: creativity. Especially creative people have discovered the approach to “think outside the box” as an immense advantage for various facets of their lives, often as a characteristic that helps them to earn a living.

The first part focused on the question what it means to think outside the box, which will erase one of the biggest problems that people have who struggle to think outside of the box: they do not clearly know what it means. The second part will show you effective ways on how to think outside the box.

Galileo Galilei is a wonderful example of a person who questioned the status quo, “The sun revolves around the earth” that was prevalent at the time when he lived. Galileo was one of the most famous outside the box thinkers in due course. Not only did Galileo not accept what he probably had been thought at school and disagreed with the status quo, but also questioned something that was considered to be a fact. Start to question things and do not accept these as predetermined straight away. Don’t take the facts your teachers, professors, and experts present you as ultimately correct or the one and only truth. Make it a habit of questioning things and discovering new and even better solutions or facts about things.

We may not all be Galileo but it is a natural known fact that all humans have creativity, here are a few tips that we have learned along the way that have aided us in getting outside the box:
1. Identify the issue.
2. Determine whether a regular or typical solution to the problem exists.
3. If one does, you’re done. If no, map out everything that went into creating the issue. In this aspect, be expansive. Include everything possible.
4. Once you start mapping out the issue more completely, start looking for ways to address the situation in one of the more outlying areas that was not considered previously.
5. Never dismiss a possible solution on the basis, “It simply cannot be done.” Consider everything. Go through every possibility until you know for a fact it can or cannot be done

The willingness to try things out does not only require courage but also the inner readiness to fail and to make a mistake. Whenever you are ready to search for the solution of a problem you have the chance to discover a way to solve whatever problem you face. However, if you are not willing to try you will not find a solution, never. Mistakes are another great way to view things from another perspective, in fact: recognising a mistake as an opportunity you can learn from in order to avoid it the next time is nothing else than outside of the box thinking. So many mistakes have helped people in many different ways, whenever they were ready to view it from another perspective. The next time you make a mistake, approach it positively: you can gain some new experiences, avoid similar mistakes the next time and you know what works not.

In summary, the goal of sharing thinking is to work with a new mindset, a new mindset shift prospective, this will introduce a common language and common problem solving process into our communities so we have a way to work together. In essence thinking can be perceived as the new Pidgin English. Pidgin was a way for people from different backgrounds and cultures to communicate, connect, and work together to get things done. Our thought processes create a common language and a way to work together to solve challenges – education, economy, environment, energy, transportation, housing, and so on. If we could truly work together as a team, using the same language and a human centered problem solving process, what might we achieve?

It was Henry Ford who said:

“Coming together is the beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”

It’s been my experience that the ultimate success out of the box thinking can be found within this quote.