Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Three Questions to Assess a Person’s “Out-of-the-Box” Thinking Ability

Out of Box is a metaphor that means to think differently, unconventionally, or from a new perspective.

Every mind has a certain box, some smaller, some bigger. The box starts set-up at a very early age, by your surroundings, the media you followed, the books you read, the education you received, the people you interacted with and the standards by which you lived. The "boxes" are the walls in your mind. Walls in your mind are constructed by the society's conditioning and rules imposed by influencers. However, the box keeps changing, in today's competitive environment, what was outside the box yesterday, may not be such today. Our thinking has to continuously evolve, adapt, and prepare for change. Which questions should you ask to assess a person’s “Out-of-box” thinking ability?

Are you a creative thinker? "The box" is anything that the average person would come up with after having spent too little time being creative. “The box" is a mental construct made up of personal (self-imposed) and environmental (culture, parental/peer influence, society) components that one operates within, so thinking outside "the box" means doing something outside of the confines of the construct. When someone asks you to "think outside the box" - they're telling you to throw conventional wisdom and pure linear logic out the window for a while, and to let the creative mind run free for a while. The resulting ideas wouldn't be completely usable yet, but would serve as a starting point for logic to return to see which ideas could be used. In short terms, this is "brainstorming on steroids." There’s nothing wrong with lots of out-of-the-box creative type thinking as long as you couple it with some good analytical (left brain type thinking). Otherwise, you’ll run the risk of spending too much time and effort chasing down bad ideas. Think of it as going from divergent thinking (out-of-the-box) to convergent thinking where you filter or funnel down the ideas to those that make sense given your capabilities. Creativity needs a problem for solving.

Are you often comfortable to get out of your comfort zone? More often, the box is your safety net and your comfort zone. When you allow information into being accepted as absolute "truth" without first using critical thinking, it inhibits your ability to also think creatively. So in order to think "out of the box," you have to clarify what's inside your box, though. The box is anyone’s comfort zone, that things are ok and everyone agrees and have the same or similar thoughts. It's a boring tiny space with very little innovative thought contained within the box. In fact, everything in the box is easy to turn stale and stagnant with increasing speed of changes. Great things don't happen inside your comfort zone or in a box; typically, it's associated with convention within context. The commonality is that "the box" tends to be what everyone with experience in the topic can identify as being "commonly known." But more often, the best practices are already out of dated, or the "commonly known" is already so yesterday because the knowledge life cycle has been significantly shortened at digital age. So there are not such things as too much outside the box thinking, but it's also important to shape the newer box to stay focus.

Are you inquisitive to step outside your own box and step into others’ box? Thinking outside of box means you are in a continuous learning mode, embrace critical thinking and creative thinking. When one leaves those existing thoughts and standards to seek additional knowledge and experience, they are stepping outside that box to unfamiliar territory. Often a problem is seen very differently by two different parties. By stepping outside your own box and getting into others’ box, a solution becomes obvious, then get back in your own box and think how that solution will work for you. Almost always, it's possible to see a mutually beneficial solution or one solution with two parts to it. This method works particularly well with complex problems and the results can be surprising, two diametrically opposed parties sometimes end up working together on a solution that suits them both well.

We all should broaden our points of interest and try new things to extend our thinking box. So please don't stop speaking out what you are thinking outside the box and have fun doing it. If we all stayed in a box and didn't believe things exist outside of our box, there's no room to broaden our thoughts. One would just take what’s in the box and live with it. No chance to expand. Out-of-the-Box thinking is a progressive and innovative thinking mode that leads to better mutual understanding and more advanced society among all humans.


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