How to think outside of the box!

‘Thinking outside of the box’ and ‘thinking creatively’ are phrases that we are familiar with hear at schools and work places.  Everyone understands how important it is to think outside of the box and think creatively since we see very successful people that have made a living based on these principles.  However, when we ask people the following question, -‘How do you think outside of the box?’, many of them do not know how to respond.  This is because they don’t really know ‘how to think outside of the box.’  In other words, people understand that thinking outside of the box is important from their experiences but don’t really know how.  Even though they don’t understand the HOW, one thing is very clear – ‘thinking outside of the box’ produces stunning results that go beyond expectations.  In this article, to the concept of thinking outside of the box will be discussed.  Since ‘thinking outside of the box’ and ‘creative thinking’ are similar in meaning, ‘thinking outside of the box’ will be used to represent both phrases.

Thinking outside of the box

According to Wikipedia, ‘Thinking outside of the box’ means “thinking differently, unconventionally, or from a new perspective.”  It is common knowledge that when people think differently, they could come up with great ideas.  But thinking differently is not as easy as it sounds and not everybody can think differently.  This is because many people are not trained to think differently.  This is the problem we are facing.  We know it is important but don’t know how to train ourselves to think differently.  This means that we have to rely on luck for the creative juices to flow into our brain.  Thus, when we ask people the question, how do you think outside of the box, many would not be able to answer it and those that have a response will answer with something similar to the definition from Wikipedia.  This implies that majority of people have never learned how to think ‘outside of the box’ but ironically many people ask others to think outside of the box.  Educators ask their students and team leaders ask their team members to think ‘outside of the box’ without showing HOW.  Is there any way to learn how to think ‘outside of the box?’

Finding a way out

To answer the question, we can begin by analyzing the key word from the phrase – the box.  The ‘box’ means something that can contain other smaller objects and in a bigger scale, the box itself could be inside of another bigger box.  When we apply this concept to our thinking ability, the phrase directly implies that the most of our thinking is inside of the box.  In other words, people’s thinking is trapped in some sort of invisible boxes.  If we could see these invisible boxes, we can come outside of the boxes easily.  Once we learn how to come outside of a box, we can free our thoughts.  The only problem is how to identify the gate in this invisible box since they are not visible. Will we be able to find our way out from the box?

The box we are referring to in ‘thinking outside of the box’ phrase is the box that people made up over time.  This means all the tools we use and all the methods that we use to make decisions in everyday life are the building blocks of the ‘box.’  This includes graphs, posters, books, shows, and more.  As people are exploring their fields of study or work, they develop better tools and overcome the limitations.  However, in many cases, newer improved versions are based on the older versions.  This means that the newer version has advantages in solving problems or performance but at the same time, some of difficulties remain still.  In other words, some of the major problems cannot be eliminated completely but just being improved.  This is because most of the improvements to solve these specific problems are based on the previous version.  In this case, the older versions are the invisible boxes.  Thus, what we have to do is remove the older versions from our brain.

The answer to ‘how to think outside of the box’ is relatively simple.  We just have to think outside of the old and current versions (the invisible boxes).  As we see the boundaries of this invisible box, we will know where the door is.  Identifying the boundaries is a great starting point, but there is still one more step – opening the door.  For the people who know how to think, this door is wide open.  But for many, this door would be still locked and need a key to open and the ‘key’ is ‘asking series of questions on the fundamental basis.’  In other words, this door is wide open for the people who have been getting answers by asking fundamental questions but locked for those not trained to do so.  Either way, once the correct questions are being asked, the ‘door’ will be wide open.  For example, for the people who are still in ‘the box,’ they would ask questions like, ‘what is missing in this version?’ or ‘which part has been improved and which part is still needs to be investigated?’  These seem to be reasonable questions to ask but in fact, these are the thoughts trapped inside of ‘the box.’  To come out of the box, questions similar to the following should be asked, ‘why are there so many versions that have been developed?’, ‘what are these developments for?’ or ‘what are the ultimate goals of this project?’  As they ask these types of fundamental questions, their thoughts are not fixated on the versions but the project itself.  While their thoughts are focused on ‘why and what is the project for,’ they can now apply unique ways to solve the problems.  This is the point where their thoughts are outside of the box and this is the moment they see the big picture.

Thinking is the most powerful and joyful process for humans as discussed in the article, ‘The principle of Education’.  Once people have the power of thinking back into their life, thinking outside of the box would be a spontaneous process.  In other words, training ourselves to think outside of the box is the same process as bringing the thinking power back into our lives.  Thinking outside of the box enables us to see the big picture of the problems or projects we are dealing with and it frees our thoughts that are trapped inside of ‘boxes.’  Once our thoughts are outside of ‘the box’, we will see there were no boxes to begin with.  It is our own selves who have trapped our thoughts inside of boxes that don’t even exist.