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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Out-of-the-box Thinking

Robert A. Goerman

What is it?

The natural thing to do is the thing you have always done. Every time you approach a problem you bring your accumulated experience, knowledge and training to bear on it. But this includes your accumulated assumptions and biases, both conscious and unconscious. The more experienced you are, the more likely you are to assume outcomes by extrapolating from the known facts and experiences to predict a result. This mental baggage can prevent you from accepting innovative ideas. The best assumption to ever have is that any commonly held belief might be wrong.

According to the dictionary, out-of-the-box thinking is defined as "thinking that moves away in diverging directions so as to involve a variety of aspects and which sometimes lead to novel ideas and solutions; associated with creativity."

Thinking in-the-box means accepting the status quo. To in-the-box thinkers, an idea is but an idea and a solution is a solution. They can be quite obstinate when it comes to appreciating any idea and very rarely invest time to turn a second-rate solution into a brilliant solution. More importantly, in-the-box thinkers are skillful at assassinating originality. They are masters of the creativity-killing attitude trademarked by "that will never work." In-the-box thinkers believe that every problem needs only one solution and that finding more than one possible solution is a waste of time. They habitually cry, "There is no time for creative solutions. We just need the solution."

Creative people become in-the-box thinkers when they stop trying. Apathy and indifference can turn an innovator into an in-the-box thinker.

Thinking outside-the-box requires new ways of seeing the world and a willingness to explore. Out-of-the box thinkers know that new-fangled ideas need nurturing and support. They also know that having an idea is good but acting on it is more important. Results are what count.

Know that if you really get out-of-the-box, you will immediately become a high-profile player. Be sure you are ready for the game. Both the risks and the rewards will increase. You will be held to a higher level of accountability, and you will taste the rare ecstasy that comes only from not holding back.

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