Tag Archives: think outside the box

Think Metaphorically– Outside the Box, Inside the Box, Beyond the Box: Creativity is a Different Way of Thinking…

‘Think outside the box’ is an overused cliché… Nevertheless, it does capture the idea that creativity means trying and exploring different ideas… It’s heard again and again, an executive admonishing a team to ‘think outside of the box’… Of course, the intention is to inspire and to ‘think creatively’, but the problem is that it’s an uninspiring, uncreative, unencouraging way to say it… In fact, it can be darn right unproductive…

According to Tom Stevens; cliché is antithesis of creativity, and ‘out of the box’ is as cliché as it comes. Everyone knows what it means, but it’s hardly a trigger for ideas that are– different, creative, breakthrough… The human brain does respond to metaphors but in very subtle and profound ways, e.g.; if a ‘box’ is a metaphor for your experience then ‘out-of-the-box‘ suggests that you trying to discover something new and totally outside of that experience… The trouble is that thinking about things outside of your experience is almost impossible… Asking someone to ‘think outside the box’ is like asking someone to list unforeseeable events…

In the article To Think Outside The Box, Go Outside The Box by Dileep Rao writesMetaphors can help make sense of the unfamiliar by comparing them to something understandable. By looking at the familiar with new eyes, you might realize that you are blind to the obvious, or you forgot an essential element, or you discovered something entirely different… Hence metaphor can change your viewpoint by forcing you to multiplicity, i.e.; looking at things from many points of view– by re-framing situations, metaphors help creative thinking… 

One of the  most common metaphor or cliché in business is to ‘think outside the box’ (OTB)… And even though many business cultures encourage employees to ‘think’ OTB… but they really do not ‘go’ OTB… For many organization, the reluctance or inability, to shake core business habits by going OTB, i.e.; from established behaviors to a more riskier ones– can be dangerous, especially when revolutionary trends can seriously disrupt the organization. Hence in order to ‘think’ outside the box, it helps to ‘be’ outside the box… Here are a few reasons:

  • No constraints: When you are on the outside you are not limited or influenced by established behaviors… hence your thinking can seek different ways to get things done…
  • Blank-slate thinking: When you are on the outside you have a blank-slate– relatively little extra baggage that can seriously influence your thinking… hence you can create new or different rules based on the reality of situation…
  • Revolutionary trending: When you are on the outside you can adopt new revolutionary advances to gain a competitive edge rather than seeking small, evolutionary changes… Small change is like re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic…
  • Bottom-up analyzing: When you are on the outside you can work for the bottom-up to determine how to make customers happier without the constraints of existing practices…

In the article Think Outside the Box and Creativity by Douglas Eby  writes: What if you could boost creativity by taking metaphors literally, such as; ‘thinking outside the box’, or ‘on the one hand, then on the other hand’? Here is where Angela Leung and her colleagues created experiments with people acting out the metaphors, literally: In one experiment, each participant was seated either, inside or outside of a five-by-five-foot cardboard box. The two environments were set-up to be the same in every way, and people didn’t feel claustrophobic in the box. Participants were told that it was a study on different work environments… Each person was given a widely used test for creativity; the finding showed that those who were ‘outside the box’ tested better, than those who were ‘inside the box’...

In another experiment, participants were asked to join two halves of a coaster that had been cut (before the test)– this representation was to demonstrate; putting ‘two + two’ together. People who acted out the metaphor displayed more convergent thinking– a component of creativity that requires putting together various scenarios, then settling on one that works… Another experiments found that walking around ‘randomly’ generated more original ideas than walking in a ‘preset-line’. And still another test found that there is truth in ‘on the one hand, then on the other hand’…

All this suggests that there is some validation to metaphors that are used when talk about creativity… According to Angela Leung; having a leisurely walk outdoors or freely pacing around helps clear the mindset– it’s getting-up and walking away from your cubicle (the box) that can also create space for creative thinking…

In the article Thinking Outside the Box by Joycelyn Campbell writes: If you are stymied by the prospect of ‘thinking outside the box’, you may be relieved to find out that you cannot actually do it… The box is the mental model through which you view and interpret the world. You are always ‘inside the box’, in one compartment or another… The ‘box’ is a symbol of constraint– what you see, what you think, how you feel, what you do… The ‘box’ has implication of rigidity, squareness, and symbolizes constrained, unimaginative thinking… In contrast to the open and unrestricted ‘out of the box‘… Thinking  creatively is being  unimpeded by orthodox and conventional constraints…

The metaphor– ‘thinking outside the box’ has become so hackneyed as to be rather meaningless. The ‘box’ has come to represent all things that limit thinking, so ‘thinking outside the box’ means being able to transcend those limitations… Out-of-the-box thinking doesn’t require people to rewire their brains or take courses in creativity… To think outside the box requires only to ask: Is there a different way to think about an issue or thing?

It’s a myth: researchers have found that the conceptual link between ‘thinking outside the box’ and ‘creativity’ fails to produce the desired creativity… And far from being hindrance– past experience, training can be a key to creative thinking… According to Frans Johansson;  instead of trying to think outside the box, people are better served by deliberately– stretching, expanding, learning, exposing… oneself to new situations, different viewpointsNew and different ideas are not spun from thin air, creativity involves; synthesizing, remixing, reenvisioning what’s already inside the box. Hence creativity is all about; building a better box, a different box…

Think Outside The Box– Doesnt Work: Think Inside The Box for Innovation, Transformation, Change… Stay In the Box and Get Results…

We’re concentrating on the things we are good at. The minute we started doing just that, the company has come alive… I’m 100 percent focused on movies. I don’t ‘think outside the box’. I’m loving playing in the ‘box’. ~Harvey Weinstein

Think outside the box, think beyond the box, think out of the box…  is to think differently, unconventionally, or from a new perspective. This phrase often refers to novel or creative thinking. The catchphrase, or cliché, has become widely used in business environments… To think outside the box is to look further and to try not thinking of the obvious things, but to try thinking beyond them.

What is encompassed by the words ‘inside the box’ is analogous with the current, and often unnoticed, assumptions about a situation. Creative thinking acknowledges and rejects the accepted paradigm, and to come up with new ideas. According to Christopher Peterson: We’ve gotten so accustomed to thinking that ideas need to come about in new and exciting ways that we often neglect the utility of established paradigms.

When crafting your ideas, first think inside the box before you look outside. Most who think seriously about creativity agree that it entails not only novelty (that outside the box stuff) but also utility, and in order to be useful, it has to go above-and-beyond what is already known (that inside the box stuff). This is not a new idea, but that’s kind of the point. It’s about embracing what’s been done before, because it’s practice that gives us the capacity to build on the old ideas to make the new:

Psychologists who study prodigious accomplishments, in science, music, or art, speak about the 10,000-hour rule, meaning that in order to do something notable in some field, one must devote 10,000+ hours to mastering the discipline in question. Practice, practice, and practice; and appreciate that much of this practice needs to be done inside the box.  If you never venture ‘outside the box’, you will probably not be creative. But if you don’t get ‘inside the box’, you will never get ‘outside the box’.

In the article “Thinking Inside the Box” by Naomi Karten writes: The problem with urging outside the box thinking is that many of us do a less than stellar job of thinking inside the box. We often fail to realize the options and opportunities that are blatantly visible ‘inside the box’ that could dramatically improve our chances of success. Often we fall victim to familiar traps, such as doing things the same old (ineffective) way or discounting colleague and teammate ideas.

Thinking outside of the box can generate innovative and ingenious ideas and outcomes, but the results will flop when teammates ignore the ideas ‘inside the box’. If I had a doughnut for every time someone advocated thinking outside the box, I wouldn’t be able to squeeze ‘inside the box’ to point out the flaws in this idea.  Outside the box thinking can generate ideas for processes, techniques, and outcomes that are innovative, and WOW-generating.

But the resulting ideas will flop in a climate in which the people involved ignore the ‘inside the box’ ideas.  The next time you hear someone urge outside the box thinking, see if the situation is one in which those involved have overlooked the possibilities ‘inside the box’. And whenever you hear a claim about someone having done outside the box thinking, see if you agree. Or might the thinking have actually taken root well within the box?   Our challenge is to look around from our perch ‘inside the box’ and ask: What options and opportunities are right here in the box for the taking?

In the article “Think Inside the Box” by Fred Nickols writes: What’s wrong with what’s ‘inside the box’?  How would you know if you did get ‘outside the box’? My answer is that you wouldn’t. You couldn’t. All you can recognize is what your box will let you recognize. We’re talking about learning, growing, improving, changing and being open to new ideas and ways of thinking. We’re talking about your mind– and mine– and everyone else’s. But we can’t get outside our minds.

However, we can do something about what goes on in there.  The best thing you can do is open the box. You see, the stuff in a closed box is fixed, static, unchanging, and quite literally in the dark. If you open the box, you can let new stuff-in and that new stuff will interact with the old stuff and create some more new stuff ‘inside the box’. Then, you can change what the box has in it and what it can do, but you don’t need to get ‘out of the box’ to do that; you just need to let more stuff-in.

Another thing we can do is bring together a bunch of different boxes and let their interactions generate stuff that’s not to be found inside any one of the boxes. Once that’s done, this new stuff is now ‘inside the box’. (Well, it makes its way inside the ones that were open. The closed ones don’t change.) So, the next time someone starts blathering and babbling to you about the importance of thinking outside the box, just smile and say,  That sounds like a really good idea. Just exactly how do you do that?  If you get some good answers, let them ‘inside your box’ and make use of the ideas.

Focus on keeping the box open and keep-on putting more good stuff into it. Then just maybe, the box will be satisfied with all the good stuff inside, and ignore all that advice to think outside.

In the article “Thinking Inside the Box” by Henry King writes: Boundaries help focus attention on problems, and help limit the process of finding solutions. In this case limit is not a bad thing…there are so many possibilities; we can make ourselves dizzy just thinking about the next option, the next change. Without boundaries, we can keep thinking forever. For innovation to materialize, we need to get beyond the thinking phase and into the ‘doing’ phase.

Of course the flip side of the argument is that if we never break the rules… if we keep the blinders on… we risk making only incremental innovation, and not game changing advancements. Boundaries are useful for adding efficiency to the innovative process. In this way boundaries serve as inspiration, until we learn what we need to change.

In the  article “Stop Thinking Outside the Box” by Dan Pallotta writes: The exhortation to think outside the box has become ubiquitous in business. So much so that it has become the new box inside of which everyone thinks. It pays lip service to the notion of transformation without really understanding difference between transformation and change, and often without tolerance for the real thinking that must occur for an idea to be truly outside the existing paradigm.

But worse than that, the advice is backwards. You cannot possibly think outside the box unless you understand the nature of the box that bounds your current thinking. You must come to know that nature deeply. You must have real insight into it. You must accept it, and embrace it at some level, before it will ever release you.

There’s a Zen saying, “What you resist persists, and what you allow to be, disappears.” Thinking outside the box without understanding the box is a petulant exercise in resistance; every idea that comes from the process has the box written all over it. It’s a reaction to the box. It’s fighting the box. It’s a child of the box. So figure out the box you’re in. If you try to get out before you understand the box’s parameters, you’ll just stay stuck inside of it. And that’s exactly what it wants.

In the article “For a Creativity Boost, Think Outside the Box… Literally” by Kate Shaw writes:  It happens in schools, cubicles, and boardrooms everywhere: someone working on a project hits a mental block. A boss or teacher might resort to a cliché like think outside the box or put two and two together, encouraging a creative solution to the problem. As it turns out, this isn’t just abstract advice.

According to an article in Psychological Science it says; ‘that literally working outside of a box or putting two halves of something together just might help those creative juices start flowing again’.  Since physical metaphors regarding creativity are so common and appear in several different languages, a group of researchers hypothesized that they may extend beyond mere clichés.

Their study showed that metaphors really affects how our minds work, and thinking outside the box does encourage creativity. Acting out metaphors linked to creativity really can help us think creatively. In fact, it does more than just let us access the knowledge we presently have; it encourages us to come up with new, unique, and creative ideas. Next time you’re stuck on a problem, take a minute to ponder– or even act out– your favorite metaphor, and you might happen upon a creative solution.

In the article “Think Inside the Box” by Tim Sanchez writes:  Think outside the box is a just another way of saying, ‘we need to be creative, innovative, and find new ways to increase market share.’ It’s fun to say, but the reality is that parameters and constraints are necessary in nearly every business decision you’ll ever make. They provide limits, guidelines, budgets, goals… all of the things that wise decisions typically require.

Here’s the trick: The ‘box’ can get bigger… much bigger. Change is hard, but often a necessary evil when tackling things; such as, customer experience initiatives… I think our job is to push the parameters of the ‘box’ until we can attack and accomplish what needs to be done. The more the box expands, the more innovative we can be with our customers.

Think out of the box has come to mean thinking of a solution that is somehow outside of what you already know and do, coming up with something wholly new. Sounds great, but does it work? According to Andrew B. Hargadon: Pushing people harder to think out of the box doesn’t work. Many of the revolutionary ideas in the technologies and arts don’t come from the person who solves the problem by thinking out of their box. It comes from the person who has seen the right solution already somewhere else; who has other boxes to think in.

People don’t think out of the box. They think in other boxes. The difference is that the new market hasn’t seen those other boxes before. If a manager pushes employees, or we push ourselves, to come up with something new, to think out of the box, we won’t get the results we want.

So instead of thinking out of the box you ask them to analogize: Think of other boxes that are similar. Think of other places where this might have been done before. The farther afield you go the more revolutionary will be the ideas you find…

Innovation is a necessity in business, but it will only succeed if you already know the ‘Box’; both ‘inside and outside’ ~ Kirk Cheyfitz