>>>Get out of the box and put your thinking cap on!

I recently saw the blog cover image outside a shop in one of my favourite local shopping villages.  It prompted me to reflect how the phrase was coined in the first place and how to apply to business and everyday life with innovation in problem solving.


Wikipedia’s interpretation is “Thinking outside the box is a metaphor that means to think differently, unconventionally, or from a new perspective. This phrase often refers to novel or creative thinking. The term is thought to derive from management consultants in the 1970s and 1980s challenging their clients to solve the "nine dots" puzzle, whose solution requires some lateral thinking.


So back to my original point, thinking outside the box is more than just a business cliché. It means approaching problems in new, innovative ways; conceptualising problems differently; and understanding your position in relation to any particular situation in a way you’d never thought of before.


We’re told to “think outside the box” all the time, but how exactly do we do that? How do we develop the ability to confront problems in ways other than the ways we have usually confronted problems in the past? How do we cultivate the ability to look at things differently?


Thinking outside the box starts well before we’re actually ‘boxed in’ – that is, well before we confront a unique situation and start forcing it into a familiar ‘box’ that we already know how to deal with.

A man who does not think for himself does not think at all.
— Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde


Problem solving or pre-empting problems before they actually happen and how you are going to deal with them is one of the core elements of project management ie ‘risk management’. 


Consciously assessing a risk to a project and/ or business operations and how you would handle them lessens or obliterates the risk saving time, money and impact on desired outcomes.  These risks can then be highlighted in a project management plan and referred to when assessing project milestones.


So let’s get creative, there are more than one way to solve a problem, it only requires some creative thinking! Challenge your norms, push your thinking beyond self-imposed barriers to test your conceptualising skills.


Here are my 3 Top Tips to get your thinking up to and beyond its limit:

1 – Work backwards

Just like turning a thing upside down, working backwards breaks the brain’s normal conception of causality. This is the key to backwards planning, for example, where you start with a goal and desired outcomes, think back through the steps needed to reach it until you get to where you are right now.


2 –  Mind mapping

Mind Mapping is a technique used to generate ideas based on word associations, or more specifically idea associations. If you are a visual thinker like me, I respond to visual prompts and find it helpful to map ideas down on paper. 


For example, if you are planning on starting a new project or team building exercise in a workshop, start off with a blank sheet of paper, in the middle of the sheet, write the word "Project X." Then, as you think of words that associate with "Project X" and next to it, write those words down whether on the left, right, above or below so that each word has another word next to it.


One word will lead to another word or idea which leads to other ideas. Those ideas branch into more unique ideas and it begins to look like a ‘tree of life’ in which new branches grow out of existing branches. 


To get even more creative, how about colour coding each unique concept relating to the central word!


3 –  Engage in physical activity

There’s some kind of weird psychic link between movement and activity. Have you ever sat in front of a computer with writer’s block and no fresh ideas flowing?  My best thinking time is when I get behind the wheel of my car, creativity and answers to problems magically flow!


Who knows why? Maybe it’s because your mind is on other things. So maybe when the status quo response to some circumstance just isn’t working, try taking getting up and going for a walk or engage in some other physical activity and see if something remarkable doesn’t occur to you!


Do you have strategies for thinking differently?  Drop me a line, I would love to hear from you...


To your success….

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