How leaders can encourage their team to think outside the box

Many leaders would like their group or team to be able to think outside the box.

One way to do this is to switch the team’s thinking about the box.

Rather than a single box think more about boxes.

From single to plural.

Here’s why – our mind consists of many boxes.

For example, if you think about an organisation there are boxes for:

  • Marketing
  • Human Resources
  • Sales
  • Operations…

These boxes occupy a specific space and place in our mind.

The magic is often trying to connect these boxes to generate something new.

For example,

Think of the box for standardisation.

Now consider the box in your mind around customisation.

Now connect these two.

What do you get?

You might end up with a platform like WordPress, Canva, Twitter, LinkedIn to name a few.

These are platforms or applications that allow you to customise your site for example but within limits.

They have connected two separate boxes (i.e. standardisation & customisation).

The key message?

To think outside the box is as easy as looking to connect two seemingly different boxes.

Here is another example of this approach.

Think about ‘the work at the office’ box.

Then consider the ‘work at home box.’

Each of these have their own rules, assumptions, conventions, beliefs and experiences.

Now switch and connect the two.

You end up with a hybrid way of working which seems to be the future of work.

Here is another thought.

The more unrelated the thinking boxes – the better.

Consider Car Washing and Cafe.

Connect the two and you end up with a place where you can have your car washed and have a coffee while you wait.

What is interesting is that there is nothing original about car washing nor a cafe.

What is original is connecting the two.

Sometimes to think outside the box paradoxically just requires you to stay inside your thinking box but connect with another (separate) box.

How leaders can use with their team

As a leader you could suggest each team member represent a different box.

For example:

Have one team member adopt the competitor box.

Then have another assume the consumer box.

Then have these two sit together in say a brainstorming session for example and see what emerges from the conversation.

It might be that the competitor has a more insightful view of the customer or consumer.

What is key in this exercise is having team members adopt different thinking boxes and have them try and connect these boxes to generate a new growth opportunity.

To restate – thinking outside the box often just requires connecting with other boxes!

This requires a diversity of experiences, perspectives in the group and a deliberate way of making these connections between boxes rather than waiting for a random aha moment.




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