Thinking outside the box, what’s the meaning?

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Among the most well-worn phrases in the business world is “thinking outside the box”. 

It is supposed to mean thinking creatively, freely, and off the beaten path. It’s the kind of thinking that; in an age of increasingly powerful algorithms and neural networks, garners significant attention. For now, it’s the kind of stuff that machines can’t do that well.

Thinking outside the box or thinking beyond the box  especially in Uganda,  is a metaphor that means to think differently, unconventionally, or from a new perspective. This phrase often refers to novel or creative thinking. 

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?

Its a common jargon, but materializing on how it works, it is hard, anyway, basing on my career guidance experience, someone can facilitate the thinking outside the box in the following ways:

Study another industry

I’ve learned as much about journalism from learning about the radio industry as I have from studying counselling psychology; maybe more. Go to the library and pick up a trade magazine in an industry other than your own, or grab a few books from the library, and learn about how things are done in other industries. You might find that many of the problems people in other industries face are similar to the problems in your own, but that they’ve developed really quite different ways of dealing with them. Or you might well find new linkages between your own industry and the new one, linkages that might well be the basis of innovative partnerships in the future.

Learn about another religion

Religions are the way that humans organize and understand their relationships not only with the supernatural or divine but with each other, this is a tested psychological fact. Learning about how such relations are structured can teach you a lot about how people relate to each other and the world around them. Starting to see the reason in another religion can also help you develop mental flexibility; when you really look at all the different ways people comprehend the same mysteries, and the fact that they generally manage to survive regardless of what they believe, you start to see the limitations of whatever dogma or doxy you follow, a revelation that will transfer quite a bit into the non-religious parts of your life.

Take a class

Learning a new topic will not only teach you a new set of facts and figures, it will teach you a new way of looking at and making sense of aspects of your everyday life or of the society or natural world you live in. This in turn will help expand both how you look at problems and the breadth of possible solutions you can come up with.

Ask a child for advice

I don’t buy into the notion that children are inherently not creative before society “ruins” them, but I do know that children think and speak with an ignorance of convention that is often helpful. Ask a child how they might tackle a problem, or if you don’t have a child around think about how you might reformulate a problem so that a child could understand it if one was available. Don’t run out and build a boat made out of cookies because a child told you to, though but amazingly the idea isn’t to do what the child says, necessarily, but to jog your own thinking into a more unconventional path.

Take a shower

There’s some kind of weird psychic link between showering and creativity. Who knows why? Maybe it’s because your mind is on other things, maybe it’s because you’re naked, maybe it’s the warm water relaxing you  it’s a mystery. But a lot of people swear by it. So maybe when the status quo response to some circumstance just isn’t working, try taking a shower and see if something remarkable doesn’t occur to you!

And lastly, though amazing;

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 think back through the steps needed to reach it until you get to where you are right now.

Do you have strategies for thinking differently? Share your tips with us in the comments.

By Counsellor Kakinda Adrian – CEO Adrian Careers

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