Thinking outside the box is more than just a business cliché. It means approaching problems in new, innovative ways and conceptualizing problems differently. Here are 11 ways to beef up your out-of-the-box thinking skills.
1. Study another industry
Go to the library and pick up a trade magazine in an industry other than your own, or grab a few books from the library, and learn about how things are done in other industries.
2. Learn about another religion
Religions are the way that humans organize and understand their relationships not only with the supernatural or divine but with each other.
Learning about how such relations are structured can teach you a lot about how people relate to each other and the world around them.
3. Take a class
Learning a new topic will not only teach you a new set of facts and figures, it will teach you a new way of looking at and making sense of aspects of your everyday life or of the society or natural world you live in.
4. Read a novel in an unfamiliar genre
Try reading something you’d never have touched otherwise -- if you read literary fiction, try a mystery or science fiction novel; if you read a lot of detective novels, try a romance; and so on. Pay attention not only to the story but to the particular problems the author has to deal with.
5. Write a poem
While most problem-solving leans heavily on your brain’s logical centers, poetry neatly bridges your more rational left-brain thought processes and your more creative right-brain processes.
6. Draw a picture
Drawing a picture is even more right-brained, and can help break your logical left-brain’s hold on a problem the same way a poem can.
7. Turn it upside down
Turning something upside-down, whether physically by flipping a piece of paper around or metaphorically by re-imagining it can help you see patterns that wouldn’t otherwise be apparent.
8. Work backwards
Just like turning a thing upside down, working backwards breaks your brain’s normal conception of causality.
9. Ask a child for advice
Children think and speak with an ignorance of convention that is often helpful.
10. Invite randomness
Embracing mistakes and incorporating them into your projects, developing strategies that allow for random input, working amid chaotic juxtapositions of sound and form -- all of these can help you to move beyond everyday patterns of thinking into the sublime.
11. Take a shower
There’s some kind of weird psychic link between showering and creativity. Who knows why? So maybe when the status quo response to some circumstance just isn’t working, try taking a shower and see if something remarkable doesn’t occur to you!