Thinking outside the box

The expression “thinking outside the box” is a metaphor that generally means approaching problems in new, innovative ways, conceptualizing complicated situations differently and comprehending them by numerous points of view, in relation to several particular conditions. 

Thinking outside the box is complex, in particular due to the fact mankind is composed of beings full of habits and, obviously, most of them prefer the comfort of familiar routines. According to many people, thinking outside the box means questioning long-held beliefs.

So, for promoting this kind of thoughts, there are 3 effective ways:

1. Breaking the habits. When a person is facing a challenge, he/she often approaches it relying on past experiences and drawing upon tried and tested ideas that worked in the past. This approach is a strategic and risk calculated formula. On the other hand, so as to continue to innovate and produce some truly original solutions, it is important to step out of the comfort zones. Especially in a digital age, finding new solutions is fundamental for a company or a worker. The best way to do it and improve is by practising, breaking the daily habits and breaking away from usual methods and performances.

2. Trying a different perspective. When a person is confronted with a problem or a question, he/she usually focuses the attention on coming up with a rapid solution. The adoption, for approaching this problem or challenge, of a different perspective is essential. For instance, you can focus on re-conceptualising the problem, even in front of different people, and analysing the question from various angles and perspectives, in order to gain a deeper comprehension of the issue. A practise for improving this feature could be if you imagine that you’re making the decision on behalf of someone else (named “put yourself in the other’s shoes”). What options do they have? What advice would you give them? How would you propose they solve the problem? What are the possible consequences from each choice? 

3. Putting aside the fear of failure. Thinking outside the box requires a great level of creativity and risk taking; this last feature increases the possibility of making many mistakes, so a person must rely on error management too. Failure is very frequent before a great success and is principally present in new and original products, concepts and design. Some of the greatest innovators learnt that failure is not grave but it can be a reflexive moment, leading to new solutions and points of view. A person unable to manage the mistakes will come to a standstill at the first complexity. On the other hand, a person able to think outside the box is basically prepared to take risks and make mistakes.. Instead of focusing only on all the things that could be right, it’s common that some of the best discoveries and works derive from mistakes.

When a person is struggling to come up with fresh ideas, these simple tricks help to remove yourself of your comfort zone and think in an innovative way.



Name of the activity: 
Thinking outside the box (with a real box)

The aim of the activity:
Find the best solution to solve a problem

Skills that the activity develops 
Lateral thinking

How many people the activity is suited for:
4 (not less)

Time requirement of the activity:

How many instructors are needed?

What is the role of the trainer or instructor?

Other requirements for the activity (space, equipment…):
Open floor space, a table with chairs, pens, notebook, a box, role cards (RECORDER, READER, TASK MANAGER, PRESENTER)

Describe the activity in a clear and concise manner:
Each person should pick one of the roles from the role cards. The roles are: the RECORDER, who writes down the info; the READER to read the directions step by step; the TASK MANAGER to make certain people stay on task; and the PRESENTER to explain your ideas to the group. 

Create and read a problem. Each person in the group must understand the problem and the task. It’s time for brainstorming: using a paper sheet, work as a group to find as many solutions as possible for the problem. The RECORDER must write all of the ideas. This discussion must consider the advantages and disadvantages of the ideas. 

Then there’s the discussion about the options and the choice of the best idea. The group should think if there’s something that could go wrong with the chosen solution and eventually individuate a change.

The RECORDER must record the solution on chart paper and, finally, the group must present and explain the problem, the solution and the reasons.