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The Two Dimensions Of Thinking Outside The Box
Thinking outside the box is a skill that is highly valued in all types of organizations. The phrase “thinking outside the box” creates this vision of the best thinking that leads to innovation. It is a skill that provides real opportunities in Internal and External Dimensions. This is a skill that can create a huge competitive advantage – both personally and organizationally. It’s not for everyone – really – it’s a top ten percent skill, but the rewards for developing it can be huge – in many ways.
So what are the External and Internal Dimensions of thinking outside the box?
The Internal Dimension deals with questions such as:
How can I see the world differently?
How can I be more creative- in my work, in my play, in my relationships?
How can I come up with ways to do things better, faster, cheaper, faster?
How can I shift my thinking so that I can be unique in providing insights, solutions, presentations?
How can I take my thinking to the “next level”?
The operative word of the internal dimension is “I”. It deals with internal self-development – working within ourselves to gain greater skills and capacity for out-of-the-box thinking. This includes being able and willing to challenge our own comfort zones and our own behaviors, attitudes and beliefs.
It starts with having the belief that you are worthy and capable of developing this skill – or improving its value
Then it takes the conviction that having this skill has personal value.
Then it requires an inventory of how you see the world around you, and how you see yourself.
Then you need to take action to change – challenge yourself to change a habit – to see things differently. It could be reading a different newspaper or a blog – one that expresses a different point of view than you are used to. The opportunities are endless.
An example: My wife and I like to watch a movie – and then have dinner and talk about things that we enjoy, that we find exciting, that we interpret differently. We want to do this with another couple. Different perspectives from four people looking at the same thing can be amazing – and incredibly valuable in challenging and changing and adding to our own ways of thinking.
As you take these kinds of actions, you’re on your way to expanding your thinking — the critical step of thinking outside your box. – or to change your own box – make it bigger, or a different shape, or any way you want to see your own progress.
While you’re on this journey, keep reminding yourself that what you’re doing is a process that at least 90 percent of the population can’t or won’t do – and you’re definitely developing a unique skill – this Internal Dimension of think outside the box.
The External Dimension deals with questions such as:
How can we access other people’s thinking to create new solutions and new ways of doing things?
What do others think about this problem/condition/issue?
Who can we call to help resolve this issue?
What are the different ways we can involve the organization?
Why can’t we see what others have?
In the External Dimension the operative word is “We”. The operative nature of the External Dimension is to look outside ourselves and consider the human resources of the organization – whatever that means -. as a source of outside the box thinking. And in doing so, collect their inputs – and make the sum of the parts exceed the ability of any individual to produce a result.
The External Dimension can provide organizations with their greatest opportunity for growth, innovation, and competitive advantage.
This Dimension rests on the belief that each person has a unique perspective to offer, and that the way to expand thinking is through the shared thinking of people with insights and skills gained from education, experience , encouragement, and many other sources.
This is the Dimension where the Collective Genius of the group is accessed. Leaders at all levels respect and trust the Collective Genius of the group – they know the result of out of the box thinking that results in solutions that are greater than the sum of the parts. The payoff – more possibilities, better information, personal growth and success.
For the External Dimension to work, certain conditions must exist:
There must be trust and respect for all team members, and for their inputs and contributions
The attitude that says “every idea counts” is important.
Freedom of expression in the group, and in the organization, should be encouraged.
There must be a structure for ideas to be captured and developed.
Guidelines for participation are critical – structure can give even the most reluctant participants the freedom to express themselves.
It takes patience and the realization that the group may make many marginal inputs on their way to breakthrough thinking.
The attitude of judging others’ inputs should be put aside, as should the “we did that once but it didn’t work” attitude.
The upside of the External Dimension is that it can generate more cost-effective, innovative, creative solutions than anything else in an organization. And at no real additional cost – in money or capital investment.
The difficulty is that many organizations are not willing to change their practices to meet the conditions listed above. For whatever reason, the “my way or the highway” attitude prevented Collective Genius from rising to the top. Ultimately, in that kind of environment, out-of-the-box thinking is something you have to buy – if it’s available – and pay dearly.
Start today to create your own Internal Dimension thinking outside the box – or expanding it. Take a belief you have about people – and challenge it. And then answer these questions:
What if I change that belief – what do I change about it?
What good would be gained by doing that?
How does this change increase my personal worth and ability to change and be wise?
The answers will help you clear your mind and begin the process of personal challenge. Do it now. Be a top ten percenter.
If you are in an organization, ask your people if the conditions listed above for the External Dimension exist – you will be surprised by their answers. And then make changing habits and making outside-the-box thinking a habit in your work. Start today.
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