Organizational Development Consultant

Seven Techniques to Boost Creativity and Teamwork: #1 Thinking Outside the Box

March 22, 2014

My last twenty blogs described techniques for improving meeting productivity.  The next seven blogs will describe meeting facilitation techniques to boost creativity and teamwork.  They will include:

1. Thinking Outside the Box

2. New Glasses

3. Incrediballs

4. Team Learning

5. Two Truths and a Lie

6. Milestones

7. The Funeral

Today, we’ll start with Technique #1: Thinking Outside the Box.   Here we go!

What Is Thinking Outside the Box?

Thinking Outside the Box is a technique designed to help your participants see the value of thinking in new and different ways.

People think and problem solve within their personal paradigms—the sets of beliefs each of us hold. These structure our thinking and the ways in which we view the world. Without challenging our paradigms, we restrict our ability to perceive a fuller picture of the world and thereby limit our ability to excel.

When to Use Thinking Outside the Box

  •  When your group seems to be stuck
  •  When you know the group’s thinking will need to be challenged in order to effectively solve a problem or be more competitive
  •  When your group needs to look at things in different ways

How to Use Thinking Outside the Box

Before the Meeting:

  1. Determine how you want to use and introduce Thinking Outside the Box.
  2. Create an overhead or chart as follows:
9 dots Slide 1
During the Meeting:
  1. Introduce the exercise. You might say, for example,“This next agenda item is going to take some creative thinking. To get us warmed up, let’s do a quick exercise.”NOTE: When you introduce and explain the exercise, don’t use the words thinking outside the box, as that would provide too obvious a hint for the solution to the puzzle. Use the words nine-dot exercise instead.
  2. Explain the exercise with the help of your chart or overhead. Ask participants to individually solve the puzzle.
  3. Demonstrate how to solve the puzzle. After a few minutes, ask if anyone has solved the problem. Invite one person who has solved the puzzle (be sure to verify that he or she has done so successfully first) to come forward and demonstrate the solution.NOTE: If no one has solved the puzzle, complete it yourself on the chart or overhead.
9 dots Slide 2
4. Debrief the exercise by asking the following questions: “What made it difficult to think outside the box?” “What is the value of thinking outside the box for us here today?” “What are the dangers of thinking outside the box?” “How can we remind ourselves to think outside the box?”NOTE: This exercise is well-known. If your participant group is familiar with it, use the thinking outside the box terminology as a quick reminder. It may still be worthwhile to use the nine-dot model as a visual reminder from time to time.

Summary

Thinking Outside the Box is an excellent exercise to help people understand the limita- tions of their own boundaries and help them think in new and creative ways.

Before the Meeting:

  1. Determine how you will use and introduce Thinking Outside the Box.
  2. Create the chart or overhead with instructions for the exercise.

During the Meeting:

  1. Introduce Thinking Outside the Box.
  2. Explain the exercise and ask your participants to individually solve the puzzle.
  3. Demonstrate how to solve the puzzle.
  4. Debrief the exercise.

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