Think Outside the Box

Think Outside the Box

Teaching students to think outside the box…

Thinking outside the box is more than just a business cliché. It means approaching problems in new, innovative ways; conceptualizing problems differently; and understanding your position in relation to any particular situation in a way you’d never thought of before. Ironically, its a cliché that means to think of clichéd situations in ways that aren’t clichéd.

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 normally confront problems? How do we cultivate the ability to look at things differently from the way we typically look at things?

Thinking outside the box starts well before we’re “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. Or at least think we know how to deal with.

Keys to

1. Set parameters to focus your ideas. Ironically, too much freedom can hinder your creativity. Boundaries help your memory function, giving your ideas more depth and breadth. “Too many times, people start off really broad,” Rossi says. “That’s a lot of pressure. It’s easier to anchor an idea somewhere.”

As you brainstorm, focus your thinking by asking specific questions. For example, if you’re looking for new marketing strategies, list ten things you could do on Facebook or five ideas that involve crowdsourcing. Play with a variety of prompts and write down whatever comes to mind, no matter how loosely associated.

2. Search for random inspiration. To think outside the box, you need to trigger your brain to make connections it normally wouldn’t make. To do that, look for inspiration that seems entirely unrelated to the problem.

3. Aim for quantity, not quality. While you’re generating ideas, turn off your internal editor. Exhaust your good ideas and start throwing out suggestions that seem absurd or wrong. Remember, you can always make a bad idea better after the fact.