When you think of creativity, one simple phrase is likely to pop into your mind.  

“Think outside of the box.”

It’s not an easy thing to do.

How does one think outside of the box?

What happens when you do? Is there some magical pool of inspiration waiting to shower you with ideas?

Probably not.

But “think outside of the box” is not bad advice, it’s just incomplete advice.

In order to be accurate, it really should be “think outside of YOUR box.”

You can argue that it’s a small change, but this tiny shift has the ability to fundamentally change our perspective.

It’s a simple thesis…

Creativity starts from having a large bank of experiences and perspectives. Once you have that bank, you can start to stitch together solutions like a patchwork quilt.

Think Outside of the Box? What’s Out There?

The world outside of the box is not brimming with ideas. It’s not some fountain of creativity. There is no magical kingdom waiting to shower us with new thoughts and perspectives.

In fact, the world outside of the box is rather boring at first glance.

Imagine this for a moment…

You are standing inside of a large box. Its walls extend up above your head, just far enough to prevent you from seeing beyond them.

What’s out there?

What do you think you would see if you pulled yourself up, stuck your head out, and look around?

The answer? More boxes.

That’s it. That’s all that is there. Other boxes.

Quite a boring sight but the important thing to consider here is what can be found within those other boxes.

Perspective. Stories. Experiences.

Each of the boxes that lay before you belongs to someone else. They are each filled with the beliefs and ideas that constrain their owners and prevent them from being creative.

Their boxes serve the same purpose as yours, to create a standard of operation in which the owner can live their life and make decisions.

But what would happen if you could enter someone else’s box?

A World of Unlimited Creativity Awaits You.

If each box serves to limit its owner’s creative potential based on their own unique experiences, does it not stand to reason that by entering another person’s box, you open yourself to their experiences and perspectives which are currently foreign to you?

By opening yourself to those foreign experiences, wouldn’t that lead to more ammunition in your creative toolbox?

If the above is true then within each of these boxes lies the potential for a million new ideas. A world of unlimited creativity.

With that said, there is an important requirement that must be met when taking advantage of this new found resource.

You must be able to see it for it’s potential.

This means being willing to accept someone else’s point of view and being open to learning from them.

A skill that is severely lacking in modern society.

Why We Never Leave Our Own Boxes.

We humans suffer from a limiting characteristic known as Confirmation Bias.

Con-fir-ma-tion Bi-as (noun)

The tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs or theories.

With the rise of the internet and the enormous amount of information we now all have access to, this bias is more extreme than ever before.

Confirmation bias has become a method of filtering through the information in front of us. We can choose who to accept as friends, we can control our searches, and we can consciously choose which videos we watch. Naturally, this leads to only finding content that supports our existing view of the world.

Anything or anyone that doesn’t jive with our understanding of the world is filtered out as “crazy” or “conspiracy”, and as a result, we only stumble onto websites that agree with us, we only find videos that agree with us, and we only add friends that agree with us.

When it comes to creativity, allowing this natural response to outside information is no better than death.

I’ll say that another way.

The death of creativity is to filter information based on what you agree with and disagree with.

When we try to “think outside of the box” we really should be trying to pull experiences and perspectives from everyone else’s boxes. We should be physically pulling ourselves out of our own personal box, and walking over to our neighbor’s box to see what we can learn. Those different experiences and perspectives will then create the building blocks that our subconscious mind can eventually piece together into creative ideas.

But it all starts by understanding that the key to unlocking our creative potential is to start mining these resources from those around us, especially if they have a different understanding of the world.

Confirmation bias and our unwillingness to experience the world from another person’s point of view has killed creativity. In order to revive it, we must embrace what it means to “think outside of the box” and become the type of person who can not only accept the views of others but who consciously looks for it.Opinions expressed here by Contributors are their own.

Gregg Clunis

Gregg Clunis is an artist, entrepreneur, writer, and podcaster.

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