How to Think Outside the Box

by Jun 15, 2016Small Business, Trending0 comments

I once had an associate who would discard every idea I had because “everyone else was doing XY and Z”. He could not “think outside the box”, and the fact that he seemed to think that everyone should be in the box together. It didn’t fly with me.

Your business isn’t like everyone else, your customers aren’t like everyone else, and YOU’RE not like everyone else. So, why would you want to do things like everyone else? I suppose the word “competition” forces us into the idea that we need to be similar in order to compete.

But, the more DIFFERENT you are, the more effective you will be. The first question I ask every client is “How is your business different”. Surprisingly few clients have an answer to that question and I suspect you might struggle with it too.

I was taken by Lin-Manuel Miranda’s explanation of his inspiration for the broadway hit Hamilton is a good example. Of course Lin-Manuel is a very creative, which makes getting out-of-the-box easier, but it is an inspiration you can draw from.


So, you should know how you are different from your competitors.

  1. Write what makes you different down
  2. Add what makes you different on your website, Facebook page, business cards & brochures
  3. When you write what makes you different, don’t just write what your services are, focus on what makes you different
  4. Take what makes you different to heart and exercise it everyday in your engagement with clients and customers
Tiger cat inside a box, looking out

Outside the Box is Scary

Thinking outside the box is not easy. Here are some steps you can take to help you in your process:

Change your perspective. Watch a different show on TV than you usually do. Try something thought provoking. I enjoy TED Talks. Take a different route to work, take a walk at lunch or plan a trip somewhere you have never been.

Give yourself a challenging task. Once you have a task in hand brainstorm multiple ideas on how to accomplish the task. Remember that in brainstorming there are no wrong answers or reasons not to try something.

Observe nature. Scientists have found many new discoveries by observing how nature solves similar problems. Here is a TED Talk on Biomimicry.

Reframe things. It is sort of like the “glass half full” vs. “glass half empty” idea. This takes practice for sure. I use a “trigger” to tell me when I need to reframe something. My “trigger” is whenever I feel rushed or upset over something someone else has done. You may want to try it to see if it works for you. It allows you to choose what it means for you.

Try it out. Trial and error takes courage and the willingness to fail. A mistake is just an opportunity to learn more.

I would love to hear about what “outside the box thinking” you come up with. Please share your ideas and accomplishments with me.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.