Think outside the box

There is a growing use of jargon and clutter in all walks of life but excessively in the corporate world. It seems to bring a new way of doing things or efficient methods but if you look closer we’re just in face of “air” with no added substance compared to a standard or trivial term.  The tendency is to inflate and thereby sound important.

“Thinking out of the box” is one of the best examples.

The ideas for my 3 last posts popped up during my regular outdoor activity. Jogging through nature, surrounded by trees, fields, in the company of birds, cows or sheep’s and enjoying the water of the lake or canals nearby. No traffic, no “urban” noise.

This creative process is curious as I don’t run or jog aiming to get an idea for a post or for my professional activity. Of course sometimes I start exercising with something in mind or thinking on how to approach a specific issue.  But very often the best and more surprising ideas or answers on different areas pop up when I’m not thinking about anything at all, when my mind is clear and away from that “urban noise”.

Looking deeper on this process I can recall I had very good ideas during shower, in bed or when I’m just walking around without nothing specific in mind – but attentive to all that goes and happens around me. Faces, expressions, smells, gestures, trees, birds flying around like an air raid, clouds passing by. I have always s small notepad to capture important thoughts or ideas. That’s one of the best advises I stole from Sir Richard Branson. You never know when an idea will show up. How do I know if it’s a good or bad idea? I don’t, but the purpose at that moment is to collect, not to judge or push back. That’s a later step.

Your mind is more creative when you set it free, when you don’t constraint it to a box. Making the link with the business world, very often we sit in the offices surrounded by peers or management to discuss certain topic or how to improve an area of the business,  asking the team to “think out of the box” and come up with ideas and suggestions.

How can you – being surrounded by 4 walls – think out of the box? You’re literally on it. Your mind will think constrained by the processes, methods, ideas and limits it has been when you’re in a room being quested to come up with an idea. It’s pretty simple; you might know all the capitals of the world. If I put you in a room with your peers and ask you those capitals you might go blank.

Thinking out of the box, should be first of all putting you in an environment where you’re not constrained or forced to come up with a brilliant idea quickly.

And that’s the other part of the creative process. If you’re in a room full of people and asked to come up with ideas, you’ll be your first judge and stop yourself from sharing your thoughts fearing the idea isn’t good enough. And that fear will block your creative process.

How can you be creative?

  • By detaching yourself from the outcome
  • Don’t overthink. Our life, at personal or professional level is frittered with details.
  • By putting aside the fear of looking stupid in front of your peers
  • By stepping away from the turbulence of the topic. Look from the outside. Without the constraints and limitations of the problem or situation itself.
  • Forget the “tunnel vision” It will limit your options and alternatives. Go wide vision.
  • Forget resistance. Resistance will lead to more resistance. Find other entrances. Or create one. Go around.
  • Most brilliant ideas or creations didn’t pop up just like that. Most of them came from what would seem fool ideas or attempts.

And don’t be a judge. Capture. Dissect later if it’s worth or not. Mingle with other ideas, play around.

Some companies like Google, Facebook or Twitter are adopting the “walking meetings” approach, not only for creativity but for deeper interaction and more productive outcomes.

Our creative mind is like a muscle that needs to be exercised often to develop, just like your body. Practice. Write down some ideas every day. Doesn’t matter the topic, area or aim, just keep exercising that muscle. What will you do with most of those ideas? Nothing. But you’re ability to think or to be creative will improve along the way, and eventually you’ll recognize that some of them might be explored further, leading the creation of further ideas.

Anyway, good things stick and for sure you’ll know when an idea will be worth to explore. Write to get ideas, not to express them.

Thinking outside the box has nothing to do with complex systems or solutions. Remember, to any problem or situation you’re facing if the answer isn’t simple it’s probably not the right answer.

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