13 inspiring traits of an out-of-the-box thinker

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Thinking within the box isn’t a popular trend — but it’s something that we find ourselves doing often.

Our thoughts are usually guided by a subconscious boundary keeping us from straying too far from what’s socially acceptable.

But it’s that daring spirit to wander out of “the box” that companies and industries value the most.

Out-of-the-box thinkers are the change-makers and innovators of the world.

They’re the ones that discover fresh ideas hiding in plain sight and better ways to achieve company objectives, as well as their own goals.

While some may have a natural inclination to think this way, it’s one of the most valuable skills that anyone can learn.

Keep reading to learn 13 ways to unleash your creativity and how out-of-the-box thinkers do what they do best.

1. They Ask Questions Often

A complaint that might come about when dealing with a creative thinker is that they’re too annoying; they ask too many questions like a child, they’ll subject you to the unending torment of that one-word question: “Why?”

They always ask questions to better understand things. Their curiosity is insatiable.

When they’re assigned a task to complete, they’ll ask why they’re doing it and why things work the way that they do.

They aren’t one to blindly accept things the way that they are.

There’s always a component, a product feature, an unwritten rule that they can scrutinize and improve upon.

2. They Blur The Line Between Work And Play

The usual image of “work” is one that can be soul-draining and grey; it’s an image of businessmen in suits talking to employees in grey cubicles.

It’s bloodshot eyes, a slouched posture, paperwork, staplers, meetings, and tax. There’s usually no space for color and play in a workspace.

But the thing about that is that people tend to have their best ideas when they’re joking around. Brainstorming sessions where people spitball ideas that start with “What if… ” are where out of the box thinkers thrive.

They let their minds romp and entertain lines of thought that wouldn’t have otherwise flown when the boss is around, often stumbling on an idea that raises an eye-brow with how convincing it might be. They do their best work when they’re in play mode.

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3. They Keep An Open Mind

They keep their minds open to different possibilities, the ones that competitor brands might be too risk averse to try out.

They don’t care who said what; if an idea is good, they’ll run with it.

They’re open to trying new experiences, visiting different countries or even cities to get a different perspective on life.

They break out of their usual routines to talk to new people to get a glimpse of what life is like in someone else’s shoes.

By keeping an open mind, they allow themselves to gather more ideas than someone who likes to follow the guidelines of “the box.”

4. They Go Against The Current

The proverbial “box” is exactly that — a confining space.

To find fresh ideas, the first thing that out-of-the-box thinkers do is take inventory of what’s inside the box and then try something else. Going against the current can understandably be risky.

There are stakeholder’s shares, company finances and reputation at stake when an option to venture into uncharted territories is chosen.

Author Seth Godin, however, would argue, in his book Purple Cow, that playing it safe might be riskier.

By playing the game that everyone is playing, brands risk being forgotten, blending in with the crowd.

It’s exactly what businesses would like to avoid.

So out-of-the-box thinkers are called to traverse to the fringes in search of fresh and remarkable ideas.

5. They’re Idea Sensitive

Comedian Steve Martin said, on writing comedy, that everything is usable.

All that can be experienced, from the sound of metal utensils moving together to the strange noises that can be made through the mouth, can be part of one’s act.

Out-of-the-box thinkers, in keeping their minds open, are sensitive to new and fresh ideas.

They can register them as seismographs register earthquakes miles away.

They pull ideas from their daily experiences, what they see on their walk, what they overhear, what they scroll through online.

It’s this sensitivity that allows them to find ideas that no one else might’ve picked up on.

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6. They Do Some Of Their Best Thinking Alone

Oscar-winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin said in an interview that he can take up to six showers in a given day as a means of alleviating his writer’s block.

The practice allows him a chance to step back from his writing work, and be alone to collect and process his thoughts.

Sometimes, creativity can be a curse in that there are too many thoughts running around in the mind.

That’s why out of the box thinkers not only mentally go out of the box — but physically, too.

They step outside and go off on their own, washing dishes, folding laundry, doing hobbies that have no connection to their work at all.

These moments of silence are where big ideas burst out of nowhere.

7. They Allow Their Minds To Wander

A study found that daydreaming increases one’s ability to think more creatively.

In daydreaming, it allows someone to attend to a stream of consciousness and let their minds run free.

Out-of-the-box thinkers have active minds that are just waiting to be let loose.

It’s this quality, plus their boldness to pursue such strange ideas, that make them stand out and valuable to others.

8. They Are Often Energetic And Excited

When an out-of-the-box thinker is engaged in a project, they’re engaged.

They’re always thinking about it, making drafts, revisions, pitching new ideas, and trying to make it as best as they could.

It’s similar to how obsessed we were about getting brand new toys as children.

They’ll spend more time than usual thinking and toying with the idea because it interests them so much.

It’s this excitement that allows them to dedicate and fully immerse themselves in producing great work.

9. They Are Passionate

A creative thinker’s mind will always be coming up with clever ideas, regardless if they’re getting paid for it.

It’s this deep passion that sustains their careers for years.

When someone is passionate about something, they’ll do it even when it feels almost inconvenient or when it becomes painful.

In times of a creative block, they rack their brains to come up with a viable solution to their problems.

They’ll find a way to close the loop.

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10. They Seek Opportunities

Opportunities are subjective.

Only someone with a keen eye and enough preparation can seize an opportunity and make the best use out of it.

Creative thinkers are always looking for opportunities, even in their obstacles.

Working within a tight budget, having limited manpower, and only having a few days to complete a project are where the most creative solutions are born.

11. They Can Adapt

Since they keep an open mind, creative thinkers are able to entertain a variety of different ideas from people with different mindsets.

If the assignment needs a process that they aren’t used to doing, creative thinkers easily change for it.

They aren’t rigid with their thoughts — they can’t risk it.

To be strict about what thoughts to entertain means denying new and potential solutions from entering the mind.

No two problems are alike, so each is going to need its own customized solution.

Each project is a different task that’s going to require different styles of thinking to accomplish.

12. They Learn Lessons From Different Places

An out-of-the-box thinker doesn’t settle with their own abilities.

They always try to learn new software, new languages, and new operations to help expand their mental toolbox.

Life is an ongoing process.

It’s never finished until we’re tucked in our coffins.

Until then, there’s an entire world to explore and libraries of writings that are full of ideas from people who lived centuries ago.

Creative thinkers have committed students of life that continually seek to find the best solutions from anywhere for the problems that they face.

13. They Connect Different Ideas

Steve Jobs said that creativity is simply a matter of connecting things.

It’s the connection of a phone, an internet communicator, and an iPod that created one of the most significant technological devices in recent history: the iPhone.

Playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda had the crazy idea to connect the biography of one of the United States’ founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton, to the musical genre of rap and hip-hop, to then connect it to the idea of making it a broadway play.

While people laughed and doubted such a project, Hamilton the Musical went on to set the record for most Tony nominations in a single night.

The thread that ties 2 different ideas together is originality and innovation.

When people think out of the box, it opens up a vast new world of possibilities and innovations. At the very core of creative thinking is courage and confidence.

The boldness to take those steps outside and entertain fresh and different ideas. Who knows? It might just be the next big thing.

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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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