Monday, 18 June 2012

How to think outside the box - literally

This blog post is about innovation and creativity. More precisely it's about a stupid little technique, that once helped me be creative and achieve something unexpected: come up with a quantum physics technique, and publish a paper, with barely any training in physics.

Most big ideas and breakthroughs are unexpected. They are not part of your plan for next week, in case of a company, probably not on your roadmap for next year. It is important to have a roadmap, but it is just as crucial to realise that your potentially biggest achievements are not yet on it. Keeping that in mind, what can you do right now to trigger that next big idea coming? This may be your moment: follow these instructions. It may take some time, but bear with me. I mean, really, try this, if you can't commit yourself to try something creative right now, when you have nothing better to do than read this crappy blog post, then when will you?

My thinking box
Step 1: To be creative, you want to go beyond your confort zone: you want to think outside the box. What's the first thing you need for that? A box. That's right. If you want to think outside the box, you have to have the box first. So go and get one now. A cardboard box, large or small, will easily do. I used the one pictured on the right, which I found in the recycling bin in the office. Resume reading when you found your box.

Step 2: Now that you have the box, what's inside? Inside the box are things that you are confortable with thinking about. If you have a to do list, a project plan, a roadmap for next year(s), those all go inside the box. Everything that you anticipate to happen to you and your work, everything predictable, those all go inside the box.

Step 3+: When you're ready and have the box, you can start thinking outside of it. You will likely need a pencil, to take notes, I simply sketch stuff on the wall of the box. You may prefer a quiet place to think: this time, try a busy place: remember, you're outside your comfort zone now. The rest is up to you. Let me know if you how you saved the world using this technique.

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