Ways to Think Different

We’re often admonished to “think outside the box.” Sometimes, that’s a useful approach. But when was the last time someone gave you any advice on exactly how to do it?

Well, I’ve solved that problem. I’ve assembled a handful of ways of thinking that will make it easier for you to come up with original, creative, unusual ideas that don’t meet anyone’s definition of “expected.”

You may not like all of these approaches. You may not find all of them useful. But one day soon, one or more of them may fit your needs for coming up with a fresh angle on a problem or opportunity you’re faced with.

These approaches to “out of the box” thinking may even stimulate you to come up with your own way to think creatively next time you feel the need.

Flip the Scenario

One of the easiest ways to generate a new idea is to go against the norm, to flip the scenario and do the opposite of what others ordinarily do.

For example, when conventional wisdom says to lower prices, you can consider raising them. When people are following a trend, you can buck it. When people are rushing to apply a new technology, you can wait for them to suffer from its slap-dash flaws and early difficulties, and then step in once it has sufficiently matured to be eminently useful.

Divide and Conquer

One inherent flaw in creative problem solving is that this effort necessarily juxtaposes the creative process with the refinement process. You can’t easily do both, especially at the same time. Fortunately, you can make better progress toward an “out of the box” solution by using them separately.

For example, throw off all restraints and spend the early part of your problem-solving process idealizing what the perfect solution would look like. Don’t worry about how your solution will work, or how to pay for it, or any other realistic considerations; just dream up some “out of this world” possibilities.

Afterwards, forget the creativity and rely only on your hard-boiled judgment to refine the possibilities you’ve dreamed up, cut through the dream-world fantasies, and figure out practical ways to implement the best of these solutions.

Time Travel

One interesting way to come up with “out of the box” plans and goals is to view your situation from a high-level perspective. Ask yourself: What is really going on in your career, business, industry, or personal life, and how will things be different in five or ten years?

Once you see how your challenging situation is likely to transform or evolve from the present to the future, you can look for possibilities to leap-frog the natural path forward and get to that anticipated situation in half the expected time.

Ask Why

Anyone exposed to young children will remember times when the child asked a simple “why?”, and then asked “why?” over and over and over again to each and every answer you provided. If you went along with their train of thought, you got to a place where you had to examine the fundamentals of the situation or phenomenon, including its historical record, basic operating principles, and hidden assumptions.

You can do the same with any challenging situation you face. Once you get down to that bedrock understanding, it’s far easier to think creatively about the real goals you’re trying to reach and the simplest, easiest, most direct ways to get there.

Go Full “Anti-“

An interesting way to come up with “out of the box” ideas is to go heavily against the grain. Take a few minutes and challenge everything you think is unalterably true about the problem or situation you’re faced with.

Once you have a list of challenges to the accepted ideas, beliefs, principles, and procedures, you can explore them to see if they offer any avenues to viable “out of the box” ideas.

Even if you don’t find any useful ideas, these are valuable exercises because they open your mind to unusual possibilities and prime the mental pump to generate creative ideas in the generally accepted world you normally inhabit.

Important: If this material resonated with you, please take a moment to forward it to someone you care about who might also benefit. If this material was forwarded to you, please click here to subscribe and have me send these posts to you directly in the future. In either case, please “stay tuned” to read more great stuff in the future. Thank you in advance for helping fulfill my dream – of making all of us more productive and successful – by spreading this information far and wide!

Scroll to Top