Work Traits

Out of the Box Thinking

Out of the box thinking means doing things differently, not caring what others think, and marching to the beat of your own drum.
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What is out of the box thinking?

Out of the box thinking means you’re indifferent to rules and standards being imposed on you by others, and do things your own way. 

The expectations of others in society, business and your relationships aren’t much of a concern for you. You’re unrestrained by convention, and don’t see the world through a lens of rules, expectations or governance. It’s not just about rebelling; you feel no desire to impose codes of conduct on others, either. 

This trait lends itself well to creativity and innovation, as you don’t feel bound by certain ways of producing work or fitting in with the status quo. This one is shared by groundbreaking, inspirational pioneers - for better and for worse.

We call it: Indifference

Your comfort level to 'follow the beat of your own drum', including not needing to meet the rules and expectations of others.

It didn’t take guts to follow the crowd, that courage and intelligence lay in being willing to be different.

Jackie Robinson

Leaders who demonstrate out of the box thinking

James Victore

James Victore

James Victore is an American designer, author, art director, speaker and ‘professional hell-raiser'. He’s won multiple awards in the creative industries from both his art and commercial work, and leads the way in showing people how to live more adventurous, creative lives. 

Overcoming fear, conformity and stagnation is something Victore rallies against, and it’s helped him win an Emmy, exhibitions at the MOMA in New York, and places on stage at some of the world’s most prestigious business conferences.

As he writes in his manifesto for creativity, Feck Perfuction: Dangerous Ideas on the Business of Life, “Setting your own terms for success is how you form a purpose-driven life.”

Vivienne Westwood

Vivienne Westwood is a British fashion designer, entrepreneur, and activist, known for bringing punk and new wave fashion into popular consciousness from the 1970s onwards. 

Like many fashion icons, Westwood is known for paving her own way through life and the industry. Her provocative, adventurous approach to her work has remained steadfastly unique throughout her career.  

Recognised as one of the most influential designers of all time, Westwood is a bastion of indifference to convention: “The only possible effect one can have on the world is through unpopular ideas.”

Vivienne Westwood
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Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga is an American singer-songwriter, performance artist, actress and activist. Known for her creative and flamboyant outfits, provocative and moving lyrics, and exceptional vocal talent.  

While achieving enormous commercial success and multiple Grammy awards, Lady Gaga has used her celebrity in revolutionary ways to speak out about important issues in the hope of changing people’s lives.

When receiving an MTV award, Gaga’s famous meat dress was worn in protest against the US military's policy preventing service people from disclosing their sexual identity. 

Lady Gaga is well-known for pushing artistic boundaries and speaking openly and vulnerably about her personal trauma, bullying, sexual assault and mental health struggles, and she continues to support the mental health of young people through the Born This Way Foundation.

The benefits of out of the box thinking

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Ideas come naturally to you. Problems you encounter are looked at from fresh perspectives, unburdened by rules and expectations.

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You’re disruptive, in a good way. Indifferent traits are correlated with pushing the frontiers of what’s expected and what’s possible.

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An indifferent style can provoke admiration, envy and respect from those that live their lives more cautiously.

The blind spots of out of the box thinking

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Rule breaker

Rules are there to be broken, but they’re created for a reason: things sometimes go very wrong when boundaries are pushed.

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Being unbound by unspoken social rules means you can be more likely to step on people’s toes or cause offence, usually without intending to.

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It’s difficult to plan projects around spontaneous thinkers, especially when they’re operating on their own schedule.

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How to think outside the box

1) Speak like a rebel.

This isn’t to say you should start cursing like a sailor, or practicing beat poetry in your spare time. 

But if you’re a sensible, rules-focused person, why not try letting your hair down once in a while? Bring out your inner rule breaker by using phrases like “I’ve got a feeling that…” “Let’s push the boundaries of this” or “We’re doing things a little differently today.”

After a while you’ll start thinking differently, bringing a more carefree attitude towards the things that usually stress you out.

2) Study the rebels.

Look at the lives of indifferent leaders in different fields and think about what makes them succeed.

Which qualities do you think are inherent to their personality, and which do you think are deliberately performed? Which traits could you try adopting for a day or two? 

Whether it’s in business, art, politics, or another domain, most people admire at least one rebellious trailblazer - what can you learn from the way they do things?

3) Trust your gut.

Experiment with going with your gut feeling on certain decisions. You’ll have to do this safely, of course, so save it for smaller decisions where consequences of getting it wrong aren’t so dire. 

But if you practice occasionally letting go of your propensity for following structured order or decision-making frameworks, you’ll learn to trust yourself more and fear uncertainty less.

A sticky note, well-placed near your workspace, might remind you to think more spontaneously when you’re searching for answers.

4) Ignore what others think.

This can be easier said than done, but consciously reminding yourself that you’re the one in control will boost your ability for independent thought. 

Seeking feedback from others is always a good idea, and you don’t want to undermine anyone’s authority or unfairly exclude them from a process they’re normally a part of. But mental energy is wasted on worrying about what others think.

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