What does the phrase “think out of the box” mean to you?

Share these new ideas
The 9 dot puzzle with a link to show you the solution.

It seems to be a prerequisite for managers to chant “think out of the box” in order to get their staff to be more creative. But what does “think out of the box” really mean?

It means that you need to come up with innovative ideas that will benefit the company. 

If you are in a company innovation group or innovating for yourself, then you have no restraints imposed on you to think up whatever ideas you wish. You can come up with crazy ideas if you want to and when you let them cool off see if there is any potential in them.

But not so in big companies. Why do I say that? It’s because the company system and processes are in many cases already established as rock-solid boundaries.

It’s all good and well for a manager to say “think out of the box”. But will that manager give you discretion to go outside of the box? 

I’ve included the 9 dot puzzle with a link to show you that it’s impossible to successfully find the solution to this puzzle unless you do think out of the box. No one can solve a problem like this without thinking outside of the box.

In most corporations and institutions there is not this leeway or discretion to “think outside of the box” because, as I’ve mentioned, there is a system or a process in place, well defined by the organisation or institution. 

In fairness to the managers, what they are asking you to do is to try to come up with incremental change. A small tweak here and there rather than radical change. In fact, it’s not accurate to use the word “radical” because change is change whichever way you look at it.

In an organisation or institution that encourages innovative or creative thinking, you are able to “think out of the box” even if it means that system or process change would need to be investigated.

Innovative and creative thinking requires a receptive environment for new and innovative ideas. Such an environment requires leaders who understand the innovation and change process that is required for new ideas to flourish.

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