The Problem with Thinking Outside the Box

By John Aberle | Business Lifestyle

Apr 23
Thinker outside the box

The box is our own limited thinking – new experiences get us out

How often have you heard people advise you to “think outside the box”? If you’re in business or sales and marketing management, you’ve probably heard it a lot. One problem with this admonition is that they rarely tell you how to do it or even really what it means. So first, thinking outside the box means to be open to ways that you can do things differently than they ever were before thereby finding new and exciting ideas to capture people’s imagination and earn their business.

You need to get out for your thinking to get out

The bigger problem with thinking outside the box is that we are all limited by our experiences. So in order to creatively think outside the box, you need to get outside the box of your current experiences.

My friends Judith & Jim, in SSMA recorded teleconference, “Focus 2010 – What Do You Want?” brought up the point that if you have no frame of reference for something, you can’t see it even if it’s directly in front of your nose.  Judith & Jim described how when the Spaniards first came to the New World, many of the Indians were unable to see them as the ships were so far outside their experience these American natives were blind to them. The shamans, because of their openness to new experiences, were able to teach their tribe members how to see the ships.

I have a similar experience when playing Spinning Top’s series of games called Big City Adventures.  In various locations throughout a given city, you’re given items to find.  Some of them are obvious while others are extremely difficult to see. I may have to study the scene numerous times before I can find some objects.  Occasionally I have to click on Hint to find it because of how cleverly they disguised the item.

Most successful inventions merely expand on our past experiences

The point is that without new experience, it’s virtually impossible to think outside the box.  This is why most inventions are not truly unique, never before seen products.  In fact, from the business viewpoint, those are the hardest to sell as nobody yet feels a need for them. Most successful inventions typically are those that are just a step beyond our previous experience, something that takes us to a new level of convenience or savings or that solves a problem better than ever before.

A good example of this is Apple’s iPod that took the world by storm.  Prior to the iPod, we had a series of ways to record music.  We also had handheld computers with display screens. Apple’s genius was in identifying a pent-up demand for a means to carry your music with you without having to lug dozens of tapes or CDs – and to be able to manage the list.  So the next time you’re looking for a product to revolutionize the market, instead look for the frustrations and pent-up demand in your customer base then find the evolutionary, instead of revolutionary, product to fill that need or desire.

Three simple things to speak to your buyers needs better

Here are three ways you may be able to reach your prospects and customers needs better:
•    Reframe an existing product or service in terms which appeal to what people want to buy today – be sure it delivers though
•    Bundle it with other products that work together better than either did alone
•    Expand your experience

The problem with thinking outside the box is you have to get out of your box to do it

Basically, one of the best ways to learn to think outside the box is to expand your experience beyond what you already know.  Do something different.  Go to another city, attend a seminar or tradeshow, read a science fiction novel, attend a lecture on a topic you know nothing about, use a coach or consultant or join a membership site you value. Then, when you see something new and clever ask yourself, “Can this be applied or, how can it be applied, to my industry and to my products?”

Thinking outside the box and true creativity rarely come in a vacuum.  They builds on what we know and understand already.  The best way to think outside the box is to get outside your box by broadening your experience so that you actually have the ability to see and recognize the opportunity when it comes to you.

I find Judith & Jim in their weekly teleconferences for Soft Sell Marketers Association (SSMA) help me think outside the box, to get new insights. I invite you to check SSMA out to see if there is value for you too in this community. Please be aware that this is my affiliate link so if you decide to join I will make a commission. Your membership fee will be the same whether you use my link or not.


About the Author

My first Kindle eBook, How Relationship Selling Rewards Small Businesses, went live on April 24, 2012. I've lived a lifetime of service and spiritual search so it's natural for me to incorporate these attitudes into my work. I believe that selling and marketing are spiritual service when done with a heart-centered, relationship selling approach. All of business success comes down to building strong relationships.