By Roy Williams - Oct 11 , 2007
People tell me they want to learn to think outside the box.
No problemo. The secret is to stay out of the box to begin with.
You crawl into the box when you think about your problem and wrap its known obstacles around you. So quit.
Focus instead on an interesting saying, quote, or phrase unrelated to your problem. Crawl inside that bit of wisdom and look at your problem from this cozy new perspective. Don’t be surprised if your chosen phrase works like Ali Baba’s “Open Sesame” and throws open the door to innovation, wealth, and recognition.
The secret to conjuring powerful strategy – also known as “Coming Up with The Big Idea” – is to free your beagle. Abandon the linear, sequential logic of your brain’s left hemisphere and engage the pattern recognition of the right.
Last week I wrote to you about commitment, persistence. I had a reason.
“Just as a dog guards a bone safely between its paws when not actively chewing it, creative people nurture an idea even when not actively thinking about it . . . . Creativity does not result from mysterious visions that come in dreams, or from fortuitous circumstances. Creativity and persistence are synonymous. Constantly thinking about the problem, consciously and unconsciously, maximizes the possibility that a chance occurrence is likely to be useful in solving it.” – Dr. Richard Cytowic, neurologist
Pick a problem that’s had you handcuffed. Now let’s create a “chance occurrence” like the one mentioned by Cytowic. We’re going to let your beagle sniff a trail from it to your new solution:
- Go to my Monday Morning Memo page at mmmemo.com and see, in the right nav of that page, the random quote that was generated for you from my personal collection of nigh a thousand.
- Ponder how the core idea of that quote relates to the problem you’ve been trying to solve. Find a link. Use the quote as a new point of origin. Let it pull you outside the box.
- Write down the solution triggered by the quote, no matter how ridiculous.
- Click the quote generator (the key beneath the quote) to launch a new quote and do it all over again. “Everything in the universe is connected, of course. It’s a matter of using imagination to discover the links, and language to expand and enliven them.” – Tom Robbins
If you were able to successfully unleash the beagle in your brain, you should have 3 new “outside the box” solutions in under 4 minutes. Continue to generate random quotes and apply them to your problem until one of them makes you laugh. Then walk away from your computer and go do something with your hands. Carry out the trash. Hang those mini-blinds you bought but never installed. Vacuum the car.
Don’t be surprised when your beagle reappears with a juicy rabbit of an idea—one that will really work.