We’ve all heard of the phrase ‘thinking outside of the box’. You might think it’s a bit cliché. But what most of us are probably implying when we use this catchphrase, is the act of allowing ourselves to think more creatively and freely.
What you will learn in this article:
- Why creative thinking is important
- Tips for thinking more creatively
- Research-backed advice on creative thinking
But how do we encourage ourselves and others to achieve ‘outside-of-the-box’ thinking? Here are five quick tips that are bound to get your creative juices flowing.
1. Challenge your inner critic
Have you ever found yourself dreaming up a creative idea, but procrastinating so much, it never comes to fruition? It’s probably because you’re listening to your inner critic. As Mary Borchers notes on Tiny Buddha, a website founded by Lori Deschene, author of 40 Ways to transform your inner critic, listening to the imposter inside our heads is a sure-fire way to stifle our creativity. So first, tune into your unconscious mind and learn to recognise any habitual thoughts of self-judgement or fear. Once you’ve achieved this, you’ll naturally allow for more creative, outside-of-the-box thinking styles.
2. Think like a child
We’re far less fearful, more playful and way more likely to use the ‘creative’ left side of our brain as children. So, for a moment, let yourself think in a child-like way. It might feel weird at first, but as Peter Himmelman, author of Let Me out, points out, if you encourage yourself to envisage the most positive outcomes, ‘kid-thinking’ can lead to all sorts of new and innovative ideas.
3. Read something that’s outside your expertise or preferred genre
It’s very easy to get stuck in a bubble where we only consume news, literature or media that suits our interests, religious beliefs or values. But as Thomas Oppong, author of Building Smarter Habits and founder of AllTopStartUps notes, by reading up on businesses that are different to your own, or literary fiction that’s outside of your preferred genre, you may begin to nurture what he likes to call thinking inside a box, but in a different way.
4. Give yourself some space
Ever noticed that when you leave the daily grind and immerse yourself in a completely new environment, you find your mind becomes filled with new and inventive ideas? In the study Lessons from a Faraway Land: The effect of spatial distance on creative cognition, participants who were given a problem to solve, produced far more creative responses when the task was portrayed from a ‘faraway’ location.
Ok, so it may not be practical for you to hop on the next plane to a faraway land. But challenge yourself to change your environment, give yourself some thinking space and you’re bound to trigger some freer, more creative thinking styles.
5. Think Quantity over quality
Often, we’re told that quality over quantity is the best policy in life, but when it comes to thinking outside-of-the-box, many experts claim that we should focus on the reverse. Whenever you want to apply some outside-of-the-box thinking to your personal or work life, aim to scribble down as many ideas as you can, without fear of them being too ambitious, illogical or absurd. As noted in Training Express, “you will be surprised at how many of your ‘dumb’ ideas are actually quite good and may hold the key to your solution.”