Abstract Thinking: Tips on Going Outside “The Box”

Jul 25, 2013

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In business you often get rewarded for “out-of-the-box” thinking. Many companies often wish they had more creative thinkers, go-getters, and people who push against the norm to create something worth viewing.

Well, what’s the problem? Why not just do that? Is there a school for creative thinking? Can you sign up for the online course “Abstract Thinking 101”? Not really. So what is the solution? Well…if I knew that I would probably write an entire book on it, not just a blog; however, here are a couple of tips to help you get some more “out-of-the-box” thinkers.

Everyone Can Do It

I’ll say it again, everyone can do it. If the box represents traditional problem-solution thinking then everyone is capable of coming up with an abstract way of solving the problem. Call it what you want, evolution, inspiration or dumb-luck, human beings are designed with an element of adaptation and progress. All of them. Your job as an employer is to simply arrange them in the right format so they can produce.


If John Lennon can do it, so can you. Arrange for your company to reward and encourage imagination, especially regarding company policy and products. Have you ever heard someone say something like, “I hate walking across the entire parking lot to get into the building. We should have someone manning hot-air balloons to pick us up for work”. ENCOURAGE IT. That’s out-of-the-box thinking! It may be silly at first, but eventually one of those ideas will encounter reality and you’ll have a solution to a problem you never knew you had.

Use History

Draw from experiences in the past. The slinky was created because a spring was accidently knocked over when it’s creator was looking to make something completely different. Velcro came about because its inventor noticed how burs stuck to his dog’s fur. Even the microwave had a serendipitous beginning as its creator was messing with different types of waves and noticed a bar of chocolate had melted in his pants. No one went into the office that day thinking “Today, I think I’ll change the world”. But they did. Simply because they looked at everyday happenings more than once.

Don’t Punish

This goes along with encouraging imagination, but more on the side of it failing. If someone has a new idea and it goes horribly wrong the worst thing you can do is shut them down. Creative ideas are few and far between, so as an employer you have to be willing to let the failures slip past you, in hopes that you will find a success.

That’s it. Four ideas for more creative thinking. There are probably more, but hey, that’s your job to think of them.

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