One of the most antiquated business clichés is “thinking outside the box.” It seems that everyone is captivated with thinking outside the box. 

However, if the concept is well worn, why is the practice so rare in our surroundings today? The problem is many people aren’t obvious about what the box is, or what it intends to think outside it.

Thinking outside the box is supposed to mean facing problems in atypical ways, thinking creatively and freely, and encouraging frequent challenges to the status quo. 

Why is it difficult to think outside the box?

 

Think out of the box

 

The problem is that we’re people of habit and most of us prefer the ease of familiar routines. Thinking outside the box can mean challenging long-held theories. 

It’s about saying “These are our best practices” not with a nod but with a lifted eyebrow.

Companies often evade risks that could harm their profits, even when there are plenty of success stories to portray that some risks not only pay off, they pay off big. 

 

out of the box

 

Steve Jobs was ousted by the board of directors of the company he endowed. But later, after Apple bought NeXT OS his team built, Jobs went on to become the CEO of Apple and stocks rose 9,000 per cent under his leadership.

 

Despite the opportunity for failure and rejection, risks are crucial for growth on a personal and business level. And yet, although we’re frequently told we should think outside the box, we’re infrequently told how.

How to Think Outside the Box? – Here the 10 ways

When you’re struggling to come up with fresh ideas, below 10 are some simple tricks to help you step out of your comfort zone and think innovatively.

 

free your thoughts

 

1 Ask a child what they would do.

With their vivid imaginations, kids are natural innovators.

 

child solving puzzle

 

2 Simplify it.

If you think your problem is too difficult for a child to understand, take some time to think about how to explain it easily.

“If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it.” Sometimes the very act of thinking out how to explain a complicated problem in simple words ends in an innovative solution.

 

child explaining to parents

 

3 What would I do creatively if I were causing from scratch?

Routine is the enemy of innovative thinking, but so is the pattern. Sometimes, we strive to shift away from the way we’ve always done things. Presuming a clean slate can help you alternate perspective and think outside the box.

 

 starting chess game

 

4 Ask why.

Most of the pushback we get—whether from management, colleagues, or our brains—comes with a mere phrase: 

“ That’s how we’ve always done it.” 

 

resisting

 

We’re hardwired to resist change, particularly when what we’ve been doing has been going okay, if not spectacularly. When the routine is the roadblock, “why” is the battering bar. 

Questioning “But why have we constantly made it in that direction?” can exhibit defects and open the door for creative thinking.

5 Flex your brain muscles.

Science Today recommends a few unusual exercises that can get your brain unstuck when you’re seeking to think outside the box.

 

creative brain

 

  • Alphabetize letters in words.

    Take a word (the one you’re seeing, or just guessing) and systematise the letters. So, the word B-R-A-I-N would become A-B-I-N-R.

What makes this psychic gymnastics so intensely expanding to your brain is that you’re bound to use all the information—all the letters—and reset it in your mind. Try this for ten minutes a day, three days a week. Increase the number of characters in the words you are alphabetizing as you get more skilful.

-Mike Byster, Psychology Today

  • Lose the letter E.

    Challenge your friends to use words in conversation/chat that don’t have the letter E (the most oft-used vowel in the English language) in them. It’s great to work that will get you thinking in new directions.

  • Add a list of single-digit numbers in your head

           Quick! What’s 8+6+9+3+2+4+7?

6 Take a class.

Mastering something new can help you look at the things you already know how to do from a completely separate angle.

 

learn

 

7. Freewrite.

Freewriting is the action of choosing a topic, setting a timer for a short amount of time, and writing as quick as you can without pausing to edit. It flows best if you do it with a pen and paper rather than on a computer. 

The timer adds some pressure to keep writing, pushing your brain to think creatively instead of a regular way.

 

writing your thoughts

 

8 Draw a picture.

You don’t have to know how to draw, just pick up whatever accessories you have on hand and tap into an entirely different part of your brain. It can free your thoughts.

 

scribbling

 

9 Mind Map.

Write a word or phrase. Draw a circle around it. Draw a branch and a correlated term or phrase. Circle that. Repeat. The method unbars ideas. It looks like this.

 

mind map

 

10 Take a walk.

A Stanford study showed that walking unlocks your creativity both during the walk and for a short time after. Give it a try!

 

start walking

Out-of-the-box thinking doesn’t require people to rewire their brains or take courses in creativity, although those courses sound like fun. To think outside the box, you only want to question

“Is there a different way to think about this?”


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