Coaches and business leaders will often tell people to "think outside the box". But do people really know what it means to think outside the box? And why would you want to?

Technically, the term is supposed to impart on someone the idea of being more creative in their thinking process. Thinking outside the box is something only humans can do, not technology and machines. At least right now. 

Let’s look at several strategies for “thinking outside the box”.  We’ll begin with Brainstorming.

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When you want to come up with unique ideas, one way to accomplish that is to take some time out to actively brainstorm. Brainstorming simply means that you’re going to basically dump the ideas out of your brain onto a record of some sort, be it on paper or electronically. 

There are different methods of brainstorming that work for different people. What works for you will depend on your own personality, so it’s smart to try out more than one method.

* What Would _____ Do? – Ask yourself what other people would do, specifically someone who is well trained in the area. For example, if you’re trying to figure out how to properly cook mushrooms, who would you ask? Probably Julia Child or Martha Stewart, or maybe you have a favorite chef. Try to put yourself inside their head to figure out they’d do.

* Use a Mind Map – You can use a large sheet of paper that sticks to the wall or an easel to create your mind map. Start in the center with the main topic and work your way out, writing down everything that comes to mind as you go.

* Set a Timer – One way to come up with lots of ideas quickly is to set a timer. If you have others working with you, ask everyone to write down their ideas as fast as they can (silently so everyone can do it together). Set a timer for five minutes and shout "go" and see what happens. When time constraints are there, often you can force your mind to work harder to come up with something.

* Try Music – The music needs to be instrumental only and not be distracting to thinking. Play that music whenever you want people to be more creative. Many people swear by listening to classical music. 

* Ask a Group – There are many benefits to getting a group to brainstorm with you. The more people, the more ideas. However, sometimes it can be hard to contain too many, so stick to a smaller group of less than ten to ensure it works best.

Learning to separate yourself from thoughts that interfere with your ability to brainstorm will help too. Some people like to meditate for a few minutes before they start a timed brainstorming session. Remember, brainstorming is designed to get it all out and recorded so you can sift through it later. It doesn’t have to be right. Just get it down. 

Next time, we’ll look at the ways in which you can leverage creative inspiration to reach your goals.