I had a professor at the University of Maryland who constantly emphasized how we—the young and idealistic pupils—should always be thinking outside the “box.” I was green at the time and the right side of my brain constantly ruled my heart—it showed in my terms papers. As an English major, I wasn’t afraid of dissecting (read: challenging) the works of Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, and Langston Hughes. For me, there was little inhibition in analyzing the metaphors, the imagery and the crafty prose that graced the pages of what we now consider the classics. There were, however, things that I held back in my writing and without fail that professor would tell me I need to give more. “Think outside the box, Ms. Hill,” he would say.
One day, after too many red marks on my papers, I finally worked up enough gumption to ask what, exactly, the box is. My professor perched himself on his desk, looking me square in the eyes he told me quite matter-of-factly, “The box is anything that limits you. It does not serve you.” It was that simple. The illustrious box was the thing that held me back from taking my writing to the next level. Without realizing, I was locking my best ideas, my wild imagination, and my greatest potential away. After my meeting with my professor I started thinking from a different place: a bigger and more creative place. Instantly, the world around me came alive. The box—the things that limited me (fear, laziness, excuses, etc.) became irrelevant.
So, the same question I asked my professor almost seven years ago, I’m asking you today. What is the box? Better yet, what is your box? What is the thing, or are the things that keep your company from dreaming up creative and innovative ideas? Perhaps, you’ve been approaching your customers’ concerns from a limited scope. Perhaps, your fundraising model needs an overhaul. Or, perhaps your staff feels afraid to suggest doing things differently. Creativity can only be fostered in an open environment, thus the need to eliminate the box, whatever it may be.
All the inspiration we need to solve consumers, donors, and clients’ greatest problems exist in the world around us. Our best ideas are in the brainstorming session that’s been put off for too long, or in the next conversation at a coffee shop. The next big thing you’ve been looking to create is just around the corner. To unearth it means getting rid of your box and letting go of the processes, mindsets and antiquated ideas that do not serve your business objectives.
I’m forever grateful for what my professor instilled in me. Thinking outside the box means realizing no box exists to begin with because creativity does not exist in a vacuum. Your next innovative solutions are out there waiting for you. Are you ready to grasp them?
What things have held your company back from thinking creatively? Leave a comment below. We would love to chat with you more about solutions for fostering your next big idea.