Lately I’ve been musing about the expression “Thinking outside the box” as it seems that expression is totally wrong-you can’t think your self out of a box!! A little research brought me to several web pages that discuss this concept.
Here is one definition: “Thinking outside the box is a metaphor that means to think differently, unconventionally, or from a new perspective. This phrase often refers to novel or creative thinking.” That from Wikipedia.
Lifehacker in this article suggests ways to think outside the box that include: “Study another industry, learn about another religion, take a class, write a poem, draw a picture, turn it upside down, ask a child for advice, write backwards, take a shower….”
The funny thing is the whole point is to engage the creative mind, to ‘look’ at a problem outside the box of your rational logical thinking mind. Thinking is exactly what you don’t want to do !!! No amount of thinking, regardless of one’s intellect is going to get outside the box. Some of life hacker’s solutions offer just that, not thinking, although the article fails to point out that the problem may lie in the expression itself, you can’t think yourself out of the box !!
I do enjoy their description that follows the take a shower solution: “There’s some kind of weird psychic link between showering and creativity. Who knows why? Maybe it’s because your mind is on other things, maybe it’s because you’re naked, maybe it’s the warm water relaxing you – it’s a mystery.”
It is absolutely no mystery if you go into the annals of neuroscience where you will find discussions about giving your thinking mind a break to allow your subconscious to discover solutions by connecting the dots in new ways. A little more research brought me to this article in Psychology Today. Although the article is about aerobic exercise, it applies equally well to many non thinking activities: here’s a snippet from the article:
“Many scientists believe that the creative process springs as much from the subconscious as it does from a conscious thought process. Most often, creative solutions are not wrestled from your mind through sheer force of will. Eureka moments tend to occur spontaneously, almost always when the conscious mind is thinking of something else, or nothing at all.”
So next time someone suggests to “Think outside the box”, perhaps you might suggest to ‘Step outside the box.’