Think out of the box

Wednesday, 17 November 2010 00:19 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

In today’s downsized, fast-paced, technology-driven world, everyone is faced with doing more with less. Everyone has less resource, less time, and less money.

Today’s challenges call for “thinking outside the box” and generating innovative approaches to meet ever-changing demands. Creativity has arrived as a valuable business skill.

Thinking ‘inside the box’ means accepting the status quo. In-the-box thinkers find it difficult to recognise the quality of an idea. An idea is an idea. A solution is a solution. They seldom spend time to turn an ordinary solution into a great solution. They are reluctant to spend time on think creative aspects and get new ideas. In other words, they believe that problems have only one solution.

By thinking out of the box we give ourselves the chance to go beyond this bare existence and begin to fulfil the true potential of our earthly incarnation. Not everyone can be a Da Vinci, Albert Einstein or Shakespeare, but we can all try to maximise our own potential.

How to think outside the box?

This is not rocket science. Ordinary people like you and me can do marvels if we take little more time to think differently. The very first change that you need to do in your self is start questioning things. Think differently and challenge even your own ideas. This act will strengthen your own claims.

Allow yourself freedom to brainstorm on a frequent and regular basis. Keep a note of all your ideas, even the initially rejected ones. You never know when they might be useful. Thinking out of the box is hard. It uses more energy and creates more stress than simply going with flow.

Thinking outside the box requires different attributes, which include:

  • Willingness to take new perspectives today-to- day work.
  • Openness to do different things and to do things differently.
  • Focusing on the value of finding new ideas and acting on them.
  • Listening to others.
  • Supporting and respecting others when they come up with new ideas
  • Converting ‘mosquito bites’ into ‘lemons’.

Importance of thinking out of the box for a leader

As a leader you have a great responsibility of ensuring that the organisation continues to achieve sustained success. Innovation is the key for gaining success and it requires leaders to think outside of the box more than anything else. This is the way for unlocking creativity and getting benefits to the company.

In the Sri Lankan context, children are quite pressurised by their parents, aunts & uncles at a very early age. The ‘right’ religion, the ‘right’ school, the ‘right’ behaviour, the ‘right’ way to deal with the opposite sex, etc., etc. are imposed upon these children. They then grow up like ‘zombies’ believing that their childhood beliefs imposed upon them are the absolutely ‘right’ ones and then the poor fellows cannot think beyond!

Take for instance the recent flooding of Colombo. If the people concerned had the ability to think beyond, we would not have been so greatly inconvenienced especially after the lesson learned from the 1992 flooding.

Let your children grow up with the belief that there are many possibilities and many options. Let us not cage them in.

Generate more possibilities

Leaders who are creative will spend time thinking about how to take the business forward. They will question how they can create a new product or perhaps even deliver an existing service in a different way.

For example, companies leveraging the capabilities of the internet to deliver their services. They have turn technology as their competitive advantage. This considering options or brainstorming will generate more possibilities, which in turn will generate more solutions, actions and results.

Step out of your comfort zone

It is said that you cannot get to the next level by continuing to do what you always did. In other words you need to be willing to take chances. When you think out of the box, you will initially worry that you don’t know how to do something, don’t have the resources, the time, etc., to name just a few.

Successful leaders know that whatever problem or challenge they face, there is a solution to it and it is just a matter of finding it. Finding the solution is likely to require you to step outside of your comfort zone.

For example, some might worry about how they will be perceived if they ask for help. Leaders see this as part of their development. If you want to step out of your comfort zone, try looking at it from different perspectives.

Learn a lot

Every time you take action you get a result. It might not be the result you were expecting, but you will definitely get a result. If it is a successful result, you keep looking for ways of applying it to other situations. If you are unsuccessful, you learn a lot. Take that learning and use it to help you to be a better leader.

Thomas Alva Edison once invented the bulb claimed that he learnt from every time he failed in his attempts. He said that he did not fail 1,000 times but that he discovered that there were 1,000 ways a person could fail in inventing a light bulb.

Focus on the result

As a leader you are judged on the results that you deliver. While there will be other variables that will contribute to your overall performance assessment. When you are thinking out of the box, the focus will always be on achieving results and finding ways of delivering results, more efficiently, more effectively and more economically than you currently do.

Inspire others

If you are a leader who thinks out of the box and encourages others to do the same, you will inspire and motivate others. Your team will start to focus on delivering results, become comfortable in taking chances, making mistakes and learning from them. They will be more creative and willing to step out of their comfort zones because they know they can rely on you as the leader to support them.

In conclusion, I have set a further improvement in the way I think – i.e., ‘there is no box!’

(The writer is the Managing Director and CEO, McQuire Rens Group of Companies. He has held regional responsibilities of two multinational companies of which one was a Fortune 500 company. He carries out consultancy assignments and management training in Dubai, India, Maldives, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. He is a much sought-after business consultant and corporate management trainer in Sri Lanka.)

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