It’s a phrase we have all heard from leadership gurus, management blogs and TEDx talks, but what does it mean? Are you ever aware that you are thinking within the parallel lines of a box and how do you jump outside of it?

Simply put, ‘thinking outside the box’ means thinking creatively, addressing problems in new and innovative ways and doing things different to the norm.

It’s fair to say that within work and life, we can get so bogged down with the ‘proper’ way of doing things that it can curb our imagination and ability to work differently; to work smarter. A good illustration of this can be seen in the ‘9 dots puzzle’- where you need to link all 9 dots using 4 lines or less without lifting your pen from the paper. Thinking inside the box, this puzzle is impossible.

Thinking outside the box (literally), it becomes achievable.

In real-life situations, thinking outside the box can be as simple as trying something new, changing how you do something or how you approach your problems. I recently watched “The Biggest Little Farm” as part of the International NZ Film Festival. Not to give any spoilers away, the film follows an American couple as they attempt to cultivate a 60-acre farm with only traditional farming methods. As you’d expect, they encounter a number of problems along the way- one of which is a plague of snails that destroys their fruit trees. Without being able to use pesticides, they are struggling to keep the infestation under control. This is when ‘out of the box’ thinking applies. Boxed thinking would be the spray the snails but as that’s not an option, the farmer takes a step back, observes the farm as a whole and assesses the resources they have within the traditional farm. Et Voila, an ‘out of the box’ solution is found in the form of the farms resident ducks who LOVE to eat snails. Not only do the snails get stopped in their tracks and the trees get left alone to harvest fruit, but the ducks get nourished! If the farmer had taken the boxed approach, it would have stopped the snails but would not have benefitted the ducks, thus ‘out of the box thinking’ provided a smarter solution to the problem.

So how can we get our brains to take the leap and jump outside the box? Here is a list of 6 helpful tips and tricks that can nurture our creativity in problem solving and thinking.

  • Take a walk- sometimes a breath of fresh air is all you need.
  • Take a step back– stop overthinking problems when they arise.
  • Mindmap- this can help you visualise the problem and unlock new ideas.
  • Draw a picture! Art can help get the creative juices flowing
  • Break a habit- ask yourself ‘Why’ you always do something and challenge yourself to do something different
  • Flex your brain- brain training is a great skill to develop! Keep your eyes peeled for our fab blog on how to train your brain!

Next time you encounter a problem, I dare you to ‘think outside the box’. Don’t take the obvious path but assess whether there could be a more creative, innovative or efficient way of doing things. Oh- and watch the film, it offers a few insights into leadership techniques, as well as including a really cute dog!

References

The Biggest Little Farm Movie – https://www.biggestlittlefarmmovie.com/

Hertzberg, K (2018) “ 10 Ways to Push Yourself to Think Outside the Box” retrieved from https://www.grammarly.com