Thinking outside the box (also thinking out of the box or thinking beyond 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. The term is thought to derive from management consultants in the 1970s and 1980s challenging their clients to solve the “nine dots” puzzle, whose solution requires some lateral thinking.
Ironically, telling people to “think outside the box” does not help them think outside the box, at least not with the 9-dot problem. This is due to the distinction between procedural knowledge (implicit or tacit knowledge) and declarative knowledge (book knowledge). For example, a non-verbal cue such drawing a square outside the 9 dots does allow people to solve the 9-dot problem better than average. However, a very particular kind of verbalization did indeed allow people to solve the problem better than average. This is to speak in a non-judgmental, free association style. These were the instructions in a study which showed facilitation in solving the 9-dot problem…
I have always prided myself in thinking outside the box. That is taking a different view of things than is commonly done. I love being unconventional. It is just my nature to ask “why” on almost everything I encounter in life. It makes me different and one thing I am convinced about life is that all of us want to think that we are different. We are not from the vanilla cookie cutter of life.
I have come to accept that thinking outside the box gets me in trouble on occasion. I’m sure I was passed over for some promotions in my professional career because I questioned some of the things that my boss said or did. I would have made a terrible soldier in that regard as a primary aspect of being a soldier is to obey orders without question. I just can’t seem to do that. I know asking questions, or maybe looking for answers, got me thrown out of my church of almost ten years. I just did not mindlessly jump through all the “sola” hoops demanded of me by a strict fundamentalist Lutheran pastor.
I am also proud of being a progressive. I actually embrace change where others seem to fear it. That also gets me in trouble once in a while. It seems most people want to take the safe way in almost all circumstances. The safe way usually means doing something the way “we have always done it”. That just doesn’t appeal to me.
I am also a pragmatist. That is I am always looking for the best way to accomplish goals or tasks in life. If I can mimic something that someone has managed to find to solve a problem then I usually leap at the chance but of course I usually put my own spin on it. I am not a “not invented here” person. I don’t mind giving credit to others who have already found a good solution to current day problems.
I guess I am a pretty complicated guy when it comes to life. At least I think I am…..
If you haven’t figured out how to do the 9-dot problem click the source to see the solution.