Everyone has had the advice to think outside the box but not what it means to do so, or even how to do it.

As we get older, we can easily get stuck in a routine way of thinking and working. This can stunt our professional and personal growth because we stop learning new things and challenging ourselves. It can be intimidating to really think outside the box and try something new, but it could be the key to new achievements.

We all know it can be difficult to think outside the box. Finding new ideas and innovations which are outside the ‘box’ isn’t easy, especially if you aren’t sure where the box is. To think outside the box is to turn off our default working mode to find an unexpected solution.

Why should we think outside the box?

When we stay in our default working mode, we get stuck in a rut of constantly thinking the same way. This mode of thinking works for 90% of the problems we face, but there are always problems for which it doesn’t. This gets more and more frustrating the longer it goes on.

By thinking outside the box, we can look at the problem from a different angle. By seeing the issue in a different way, we find the solution we have been looking for. Better yet, we may find a solution we didn’t expect and a challenge which helps us to improve our thought processes.

It may be simple, or an experiment, but thinking outside the box helps us to innovate the monotonous parts of life. By keeping things fresh and challenging ourselves, we can actually reduce the number of times we get stuck.

How do we think outside the box?

There is no simple formula to help you think outside the box, but there are some practical ways to help you get started.

Ask yourself: what would you do if you had no limits?

Limits on time or money can leave you feeling constrained, limiting the solutions we are able to see. But what would you do, or what could you do, if you had no limits?

Asking yourself this question can help to broaden your field of vision about the possibilities available to you. When you see the limitless solutions, you can start to find ways of achieving them within the limits in front of you.

Try to create unnatural associations

This is a simple and sometimes fun way to think outside the box. When faced with two conflicting things, it can be difficult to see how they go together. This is exactly why you should try to make them go together.

Training your brain to put things together don’t naturally associate allows you to think more freely and find alternative solutions to difficult problems. Unnatural associations may lead to an innovative product or simply allow you to see the problem from a different angle.

Take on a different personality

Another fun way to think outside the box is to try to think about it the way someone else would. We naturally think in the same ways when we approach problems, but we do not always think the same as others.

Taking on another personality may seem silly, but the Queen of England will definitely approach a problem differently to an Olympic athlete. Try out some different personalities and different ways of thinking and see if it gives a new perspective on the problem. You can be anyone you want to be!

Get in touch with your creative side

Although we may try to come at problems creatively, we can actually tend to approach them logically. This is especially true if we fall into our default way of thinking because we have a sort of formula we usually stick to.

Do a quick doodle or sketch, anything that comes to mind, then try to relate it to the problem you are trying to solve. It may take a few doodles until you find one which relates to the project, but try not to purposefully relate them. You may find yourself drawing your way to a solution.

Work backwards

Sometimes we have a goal but we aren’t sure how to achieve it. Working the problem backwards can help you to create a step-by-step of how to get there. Break the final product or aim down into its parts and consider how it can be done.

Ask a child

Children are naturally more creative and innovative than adults, and can actually have some really great ideas. Ask a child how they might make a product or solve a problem. You could get a very intuitive answer. Even if you don’t get a helpful one, you will still have inspiration for other ways to tackle the problem.

Being able to think outside the box is a valuable life skill, but it can be difficult in practice. Each problem is different and, therefore, solutions are subjective. These simple exercises will help you to practice out of the box thinking and find creative solutions to complex problems.


  1. https://www.forbes.com/

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Carol Dunlop

    Love this approach, thank you for the practical application examples. It’s always good to look at other ways of solving problems and coming up with solutions. I have some children I can run some things by, you just never know what you will get and that is a very good thing LOL

  2. Daniel E Dunlap

    With respect to thinking with a different personality, Philip Zimbardo, Stanford Professor Emeritus, had his student a “Be Deviant for a Day” assignment. I offer that to my students as an “Extra Credit Opportunity.” The idea is that you take an online Big 5 test (Openness, Neuroticism, Extraversion, etc.) choose a trait, and for a day act just the opposite. My students write a paragraph summary of others’ reactions and how the experience felt. Many come to realize that it is not just their sense of who they are that matters, as others express concern, “Is something wrong?” A variation of this, which I have not tried, might be to wear a mask or at least wear clothing that is definitely not you.

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