Outside-the-box thinking? So passé!

Innovative thinkingPerhaps you’ve heard that innovators think “outside the box.” That’s old news.

Given the complex interconnectedness of today’s economy—and technology’s ever-expanding reach—there’s a new way to approach innovative thinking. Rather than venture outside the box, imagine there’s no box at all.

Thinking without a box means seeking wide-ranging input from as many players as possible. As you analyze potential innovations, welcome feedback from knowledgeable outsiders while testing processes, disciplines and technologies that you might otherwise overlook.

Three ways to adopt no-box brainstorming:

1. Freshen your perspective. You may not realize it, but your assumptions and biases about your organization (and its people) can cloud your ability to think creatively about bold solutions. Your entrenched position can lead you to disregard promising ideas as unworkable or a poor fit for your workplace.

Free yourself from such limitations by seeing the world through fresh eyes. Pretend that you’re a new hire—and you’re getting to know your organization for the first time. As you learn about its mission and operations, what improvements make sense? How would you revamp strategy or reallocate personnel to stay ahead of industry trends?

2. Hunt for weaknesses. Imagine that you’re analyzing your organization from the vantage point of your most formidable competitor. What vulnerabilities stand out?

Or assume your biggest rival wants to steal away your customers and undermine your business. If so, what steps would you take?

3. Uncover customer insights. Immerse yourself in your customers’ lives. Shadow them during the workday and learn how they perceive your organization.

Getting an unvarnished look at how customers view your business can help you innovate to solve their most pressing problems. Spend time alongside them, identify their pain points and explore ways you can deliver better results.

— Adapted from “A Powerful New Way of Thinking to Lead the Charge for Disruption,” Steve Goldstein, www.chiefexecutive.net.