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Out of the Box?

Out of the Box?

Mary Choi Smith's picture
Mary Choi Smith
October 15th, 2010

How many times in a week do you hear the phrase “out of the box thinking”? And how many times do you actually see evidence of its application?

You only get out of the box if you get out of your box. For example, if you’re interested in innovative ideas to expand your customer base using social media, don’t just read the latest HBR article on why Twitter is or isn’t here to stay or browse the business books section at Barnes and Noble. Step out of your box. Explore. Here are some ways to get started:

  • During conversations outside of work, ask your neighbors, relatives, and friends if they use social media. Which ones they use? What they find most valuable or relevant? Why?
  • Read non-business articles and books that deal with populations communicating – like elephants, monkeys, ants or bees.
  • Seek information about how, in the natural world, small starting components can have huge impacts – like bacteria blooming into disease, viruses exploding into pandemics, or self-propagating plants spreading throughout a rain forest.
  • Scan topical information in and outside your industry and markets to understand who the leaders and followers are in your topic, in this example, innovative users of social media.

The point is, looking outside your own experience and letting those ideas percolate and crash up against your world view is a great first step to coming up with genuinely creative ideas.

Intentionally seeking infusions of new ideas, perspectives, and experiences is part of the practice of creativity. You can easily apply these practices to teams as well, deliberately enabling circumstances for emergent thinking to occur.

Approach your challenges this way, and you will produce better results—and you will positively get in the habit of getting out of your box.

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