How to think outside the box

We think in boxes!

Just step back and think about that statement.

Don’t believe me? Well think of any organisation for example and there is a box in your head for say the marketing department and a different one for say finance.

And your box is different from the next person.

This is why encouraging diverse perspectives is so important.

Your thinking box informs how you see the world, what you say and what importance you assign to any new information.

For example, I have trained my thinking box to be on the lookout for anything that is different.

I love seeing difference.

This is a great source of my creativity because I tend to notice things that are out of the ordinary.

What is your thinking box?

Your thinking box contains your:

  • past experiences
  • assumptions
  • beliefs
  • attitudes
  • expectations
  • ideology
  • industry conventions you follow
  • language of your profession or role
  • models that you use…

Your thinking box is fast, efficient and comfortable.

Yet as you can see it can also limit your thinking because we tend to create or are open to ideas that only fit within your box.

How to think outside the box?

Here is a thought experiment.

imagine yourself in a box of your own beliefs, assumptions etc.

It’s small isn’t it?

Look at all the space outside the box.

So we just need some easy ways to think outside the box.

I call these Switches.

Switches enable you to switch from inside to outside the box.

There are 6 of these switches (e.g. perspective, problem, outcome, focus, questions and rules).

For example:

What is the business problem?


What is the customer problem?

This switch forces you to think outside the box.

You just have to think differently from your usual pattern.

Participants in my workshops or courses have found these switches fast, easy and simple to use.

What’s more these switches means that you can be proactive rather than wait for a random idea in the shower for example (these are still important but often reactive).

Here is another example of switching the outcome.

What is possible?


What is impossible.

This prompt again encourages you to think outside the box.

Try it.

Outside the box is a fun, adventurous place to explore.

And when you have played there you can always switch back to the more comfortable ideas within the box.


Check out the 6 Switches Canvas. It’s simple, practical and free.