Through the pandemic, we have all had a good moment to stop and think about what we are doing and what is important. As the world reboots and splutters to a start, many are emerging with a keener focus on aligning their doing around sustainable outcomes for work, community, and planet, along with a renewed realisation that their being is actually pretty important. Imagining a sustainable future and all then course-correcting towards it, is going to take a bit of out of the box thinking – but what exactly does that mean and how do we go about it?
1 Expand The Framework of Possibility
When people talk about out of the box thinking they are asking for ideas and solutions that are not located within the realms of the norm. They want something new – fresh ideas born of expanded awareness. In order to get outside of the box to deliver on this request we, therefore, need to expand our framework of reality to make room for new possibilities. As Einstein reminds us: No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.
2 You Are The Box
The biggest limitation when it comes to out of the box thinking is the thinker. Human beings are enormously limited data-filtering machines with prejudices and shortcuts that are not tethered to the truth. To get out of the box, we need to get out of our own way, to explore the challenge from an unhindered perspective and to let go of some of the reins of limitation that we tend to bring to the party. In other words, we need to feel free to let our imagination and idealism plays together for a while.
Most destructive to this process is snide cynicism which acts as a lead weight to those letting their creativity fly. If you have a cynic in your brainstorm – try to enrol them in the project and if impossible, give them an out to withdraw from the process.
3 Check Your Scepticism
Even when you have a room full of open minds and have jettisoned the cynic, scepticism can creep in forming a barrier to out of the box insights, so here’s how you can do a quick check-up on your own scepticism and limit the negative impact of others.
Scepticism says – prove this to me in a way I can experience it myself or understand it scientifically. Great. No problem. However, watch for cognitive dissonance and pre-judged positions masquerading as scepticism. The person will say they are a sceptic but actually demonstrate entrenched and hardened opinions and beliefs. (Once you start noticing it in others you will likely start noticing it in yourself – don’t worry we all do this). Remember that true sceptics are also sceptical of their scepticism. Authentic scepticism is open-minded to the possibility of new truth emerging. It is not threatened by new information. If you are being waylaid by a sceptic – ask them how sceptical they are of their own scepticism – and if the sceptic is you – do your best to keep your inner sceptic honest!
4 Sit In The Question Longer
Hold the vision, trust the process.
We all like to think that we are great problem solvers and specialists or experts in our chosen field with an answer up every sleeve, but out of the box thinking is all about reaching beyond the low hanging fruit by hanging out longer in the question. In this way, when you do feel the arising of something new to add, it will have emerged from somewhere deeper than the surface of pre-packaged responses. Not knowing can be uncomfortable. Get used to the vibration of not knowing. Make friends with it.
5 Add Awareness
Perhaps one of the most important things that I teach in my work with professionals is the difference between the process for accessing intelligence and the process for accessing wisdom. After all, the question that faces us as a species at the moment is this: Can we overcome our intelligence and become wise?
If you want to come up with a smart answer think with your brain. If you want to come up with a wise answer, bring your awareness first to the body, second to the heart, then to the mind. In this way, we bring about a coherent state of inner harmony which allows us to contemplate the question or challenge with more of our resources online. Try it out!
By Neil Seligman
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Mindfulness Expert and Conscious Life Coach, Neil Seligman is dedicated to delivering inspiring learning experiences and catalysing conscious creativity in all aspects of life and business.