Creative Concepts
Invention Ideas

Economic Theories
Political Theories

Deep Thoughts
Story Ideas

New Business Ideas
Problem Solving

Thinking Out of the Box - One Technique

What does it mean to think outside the box? If you are a regular visitor to the website or subscriber to the Brainpower Newsletter, you know that I have answered that many times. It means getting outside the usual ways of looking at things (that's what the box is), hopefully to arrive at creative and useful ideas and solutions. Enough of definitions, though. below I demonstrate one of the many ways to actually accomplish this new frame of mind.

This is a simple technique for "out of the box" thinking. Start by identifying each of the elements of the "box." Then consider any alternatives that come to mind, even crazy ones (or especially those). Most of the resulting ideas will not be useful, but work with them and some may be made into ideas that aren't so crazy in the end. They may lead to great innovations or just plain useful changes. A specific example will help show how this works in practice.

Let's suppose that you want to stop smoking. You're looking for a creative new way to do this, so first you identify the ideas, assumptions and solutions that are common to this goal. They are the basis of the "box" you want to get out of, and include the following:

- Quitting is a matter of willpower and force of personality.

- Quitting smoking is a personal goal for yourself.

- You can pay for some program to help you.

- You need to stop smoking.

- Overcoming this addiction is difficult.

Though there are other common ideas and solutions, these will get us started. As for the first issue, you might ask, "Why is it a test of willpower?" The question could lead you to consider the easiest ways to quit that habit. Hypnotism might help with that, as would not being around others who smoke for a while, so there is no temptation. These ideas are not too creative, so we move on.

A personal goal? It's not necessary to keep that perspective, is it? Lots of people want to quit, perhaps even a few of your friends and family. Could you make this a group goal? We hold that thought in mind for the moment, and challenge the next idea: paying for a program. We ask "What if a program paid me to quit?" A crazy idea at first, but it leads to an out-of-the-box solution: A group challenge and wager.

Four friends who want to quit smoking each put a thousand dollars in a special account and after a year those who have not smoked a cigarette get to split the money. If two succeed, they each get two thousand dollars. If it's only one, he or she will get the whole four thousand with interest. The money provides motivation, and the competitive nature of the challenge helps too.

Do you need to quit smoking? We don't normally ask that, but is there a way to continue smoking without the health concerns? Switch slowly to cigarettes with less nicotine instead of quitting "cold turkey?" If you discover that the sensation of the cigarette in your mouth is as important as the nicotine, you might eventually "smoke" them without lighting them.

Now, almost everyone assumes it has to be difficult to quit smoking. What if it was easy? Nothing comes to mind with that question at first so we play with the idea and ask, "What if it was difficult... to smoke?" Turn the idea around! A perfect out of the box question, and it immediately suggests the follow-up; "How do we make it difficult to smoke? You and your spouse could pay five dollars per cigarette into a special account to be split after two years. The one who smokes less will gain the most, and the pain of the high cost will make it more difficult to light up.

What about a drug that that causes you to get immediately nauseous when you smoke, making it not only difficult, but almost impossible. It might be something like the drug "anabuse" which makes alcoholics vomit if they drink anything with alcohol in it. If it was in the form of an injection that lasts for a month, you couldn't "forget" to take your pill. Now, there's a money maker if that drug can be found.

To review: 1. List all the usual ideas and assumptions; 2. Consider them one-by-one; 3. Alter them, challenge them, look for opposites, and do anything else to find a new approach. This is one of the simplest, most systematic techniques for getting your thinking outside of the box.

If you like what you see, please share...

Out of the Box