Thinking outside the box means coming up with creative ways to solve problems – new ways to look at things.
How can you do it? First you have to understand what the “box” is. Then you can look at how to get outside of it.
The “box” is the normal way of looking at things, doing things, and all the assumptions that almost everyone involved is making. Your best way to start thinking out of the box then, is to identify and challenge all the assumptions that make up the thinking inside the box. An example might help.
A major brand of liquor was faltering some years ago, and the company couldn’t seem to boost it’s sales. More promotions, lowering the price, and getting better shelf placement were the “in the box” solutions. They didn’t work. Finally someone challenged the assumptions, by asking “What if we stopped the promotions and just raised the price?”
They raised the price as an experiment, and sales doubled. Apparently some types of liquor are bought quite often as gifts. The customers don’t want to buy the most expensive one, but they also don’t want to seem cheap, so they won’t buy it if it doesn’t cost enough. Imagine what happens to your profit margins when you raise the price and double the sales – that’s the power of thinking outside of the box.
Techniques For Thinking Outside The Box
The difficult part about challenging assumptions is identifying the assumptions. Designing a new motorcycle might mean writing down assumptions like “speed matters,” “it has to run on gas” and “it needs two wheels,” not because you expect to prove these wrong, but because challenging these can lead to creative possibilities. Besides, maybe the time has come for an electric three-wheeled motorcycle.
You can also get out of the box by “assuming the absurd.” It is either a fun or annoying exercise, depending on how open-minded you can be. Start making absurd assumptions, then finding ways to make sense of them. An easy way to do it is by asking “what if.” Time for another example.
What if my carpet cleaning business was better off with half as many customers? It seems absurd, but I work with it for a while. Hmm…less stressful. Could be more profitable if each customer was worth three times as much. How is that possible? Commercial jobs with large, easy-to-clean spaces (theaters, offices, convention halls) make more money in a day than houses, with fewer headaches.
If I focused on getting those accounts, and stopped soliciting new house cleaning accounts…hmm. That could be the most profitable way to go – not so absurd.
For more innovative ideas try to literally do your thinking out of the box. Leave the the house or the office and get out into the streets. Notice how others are doing things, and ask yourself how you can apply that to your own problems. In Ecuador, salesmen get on the bus and put a product into everyone’s hands. They let them hold it while they do a sales pitch, after which you have to give back “your” product or pay for it. It’s very effective. Is there some way you could you use the principle in your business?
I challenge you to think “Outside” the box for the next 30 days. Come up with an absurd marketing message or strategy, then implement it on a small scale to see what happens. Think 80/20 rule … 80% of your revenue will come from 20% of your efforts. You certainly dont want the reverse, where you are spending 80% of your time planting seeds in the wrong locations.
Now get to it!