When innovators talk about thinking outside the box, they mean coming up with creative ways to solve problems – new ways to look at things. How do they do it? How can you do it too? We first have to ask what the “box” is. Then we can look at how to get outside of it.
The “box” is the normal way of doing things and looking at things. It is the assumptions that almost everyone involved is making. The best way to start thinking out of the box then, is to identify and challenge all the assumptions that make up thinking inside the box.
One of the major liquor brands was faltering years ago, and they couldn’t seem to boost their sales. Promotions, lowering the price, getting better shelf placement – these were the “in the box” solutions. Then someone challenged the assumptions, by asking “What if we stopped the promotions and just raised the price?”
The price was raised as an experiment, and sales soon doubled. As it turns out, some types of liquor are bought quite often as gifts. Buyers don’t want to buy the most expensive one, but they also don’t want to seem cheap, so they won’t buy products that don’t cost enough. Now imagine what happens to your profit margins when you raise the price and double the sales. That’s the power of thinking outside of the box.
Ways To Get Outside The Box
Challenging assumptions is a powerful creative problem solving technique. The difficult part is to identify the assumptions. If you are designing a new motorcycle, write down assumptions like “speed matters,” “it has to run on gas” and “it needs two wheels,” not because you expect to prove these wrong, but because challenging these can lead to creative possibilities. Maybe the time has come for an electric three-wheeled motorcycle.
Another way to get to creative solutions is to “assume the absurd.” This is either fun or annoying, depending on how open-minded you can be. All you do is start making absurd assumptions, then finding ways to make sense of them. The easiest way to do it is by asking “what if.”
What if a carpet cleaning business was better off with half as many customers? It seems absurd, but work with it. Hmm…less stressful, perhaps. More profitable if each customer was worth three times as much. Is that possible? Commercial jobs that involve large easy-to-clean spaces (theaters, offices, convention halls) make more money in a day than houses, with fewer headaches. Focusing on getting those accounts could be the most profitable way to go – not so absurd.
Another way to more innovative ideas is to literally do your thinking out of the box. Get out of the house or the office. Look around at how others are doing things. On busses in Ecuador, salesmen put a product into everyones hands and let them hold it while they do a sales pitch. Then you have to give back “your” product or pay for it. It is very effective. How could you use the principle in your business?
What Innovation Can Do To Your Life
It’s a talent that everyone has, yet they think they don’t. The power of innovation. If you’ve ever marvelled at somebody’s creative prowess, guess what, you can create and innovate too. It just takes time. Everyone is born creative. The box of crayons in kindergarten were not limited to those who possessed potential; because the truth is, everybody has potential.
You know how long it took to learn to ride a bike or drive or to never commit the same mistake again? It’s the same with innovation. It takes a bit of practice and a lot of time before this mind function comes easily when called. This article will teach you a few tips on how to bring innovation into your life.
Don’t listen to what other people say. Follow the beat of your own drum. Allowing for the input of other people will only bring cacophony to the music you are trying to make. If you have an original idea, don’t waste your time and effort trying to make people understand. They won’t. And the help you will probably get comes in the form of negative feedback. If all those geniuses listened to their peers, we would probably still be living in the middle ages.
Spend time on it. I cannot stress that enough, although, please do not mistake this tip to tell you to quit your day job entirely. Do not. This involves some tricky time management but with a little discipline you’ll be able to squeeze both in.
Exercise. Take a walk. Run a mile or two. Send all those endorphin’s coursing through your veins. Exercising certainly clears and relaxes your mind and allows for anything to pop up.
Record your dreams. Aren’t some of them just the craziest things that your conscious mind would never have thought of? If you’ve had these dreams before, and I’m sure have, this only shows you the untapped innovative power you have lying within. So jot down those notes. Those dreams may just create an innovative spark in you.
Find your own style. You can always tell a Van Gogh from a Matisse. You’ll know Hemingway wrote something by the choice of words on the paper. So it is the same with you. People will appreciate your innovation more because it is uniquely yours and that no one else would have thought of what you were thinking. That will let people see how valuable an asset you are.
Don’t hide behind nifty gadgets or tools. You don’t need the most expensive set of paints to produce a masterpiece. The same way with writing. You don’t need some expensive fountain pen and really smooth paper for a bestseller. In fact, J.K. Rowling wrote the first book of the Harry Potter Series on bits of tissue. So what if you’ve got an expensive SLR camera if you’re a crappy photographer? Who cares if you’ve got a blinging laptop if you can’t write at all? The artist actually reduces the number of tools he has as he gets better at his craft: he knows what works and what doesn’t.
Nothing will work without passion. What wakes you up in the mornings? What keeps the flame burning? What is the one thing that you’ll die if you don’t do? Sometimes people with talent are overtaken by the people who want it more. Think the hare and the tortoise. Ellen DeGeneres once said that if you’re not doing something that you want to do, then you don’t really want to do it. And that’s true. Sometimes you just want something so bad you become a virtual unstoppable. And that is passion. Passion will keep you going.
Don’t worry about inspiration. You can’t force it; inspiration hits when you least expect it to, for those unpredictable yet inevitable moments you should prepare. An idea could strike you on the subway, yet alas, you poor unfortunate soul; you have no sheet of paper to scribble down a thought that could change the world. Avoid these disasters. Have a pen and paper within your arm’s reach at all times.
I hope this article has helped you bring more innovation into your life. Keep in mind that you’re doing these things for your own satisfaction and not anybody else’s. But soon enough they will notice, and everything should snowball from there.