Ideas

24 Entrepreneurs Share Ideas on How to Think Outside The Box

Want to be a think tank in your business? Well, it’s not always natural or easy to be creative and think outside the box as a business owner due to fear of risk-taking, desire for perfection and clinging on to old ways of doing things. So how do you ignite your creative self and foster that in your team? It’s not necessarily hard and can be achieved.

We asked entrepreneurs and business owners how they think outside the box and here are the insightful responses.

#1-Digging deep into books

Photo Credit: Samuel Kane

I am a book reading enthusiast who has learned a lot through reading. Every time I walk to the library, I don't just pick a book randomly and read for leisure instead, I go for business-related books and those that specifically dwell on my business niche. This has helped me think outside the box in the sense that I easily get new, innovative, and viable ways to solve different problems. Furthermore, reading books has helped me get ideas on how I can connect with other industries hence, largely aiding in growth and development. I can proudly say that my passion for books has largely changed the status quo.

Thanks to Samuel Kane, TheMoneyPig!


#2- Doing the opposite of the expected

Photo Credit: Matthew Myre

The way I think outside the box in terms of business is to simply do the opposite of what everyone else is doing. That guarantees a different result, whether good or bad. For instance, real estate agents tend to get their leads off cold calling, whereas I get my leads from content marketing on blogs and videos. I have the ability to scale my business passively, whereas others can't. It's a risk I'm glad I took.

Thanks to Matthew Myre, Berri Properties!


#3- I use mobile brain games

Photo Credit: Jens Madsen

Yes, there are a lot of brain-training games such as Brain Wars and Elevate which can help in problem-solving, critical thinking, etc. I am a big fan of these games and there is a reason behind that. Every time I start concentrating on these games, I find myself a different thinker. The ability to come up with new ideas and the ability to solve problems related to my business are some of the things I benefit from these games. However, it isn't as easy as such. It takes time, devotion, and courage to achieve such a level.

Thanks to Jens Madsen, Heatxperts!


#4- Being open to possibilities

Photo Credit: Caterina Bidini

I have never described myself as an outside-the-box type of thinker but one thing that has worked well for me consistently is being open to possibilities. That is, nothing is truly set in stone. Whilst a particular decision I am making today is in response to a particular stimulus, I am fully aware that I may need to pivot or completely change my strategy. I think this is the best way to be adaptable, be agile, and aware of what the market wants. And in order to do this, there can be no ego in the decision-making process and this is perhaps the most difficult thing as a business owner to learn and perfect. Even for me, it is a daily challenge but I am aware of it and have processes in place to minimize making the wrong decision based on personal opinion.

Thanks to Caterina Bidini, Bidinis Bags!


#5-You have to know who you are

Photo Credit: Matthew Rogers

As most of you will know, web design agencies and website designers are a dime a dozen. It is very difficult for a consumer or prospective client to compare apples to apples in our industry. Therefore, in order to stand out from the crowd, the only way is to have effective messaging across all user touchpoints and in order to do this, you and your organization MUST know who they are, what they stand for, and who they're attracting and pushing away. Once you know who you are, you have levers at your disposal to pull and because you know what your values are, you can do anything within those parameters. This is how we think outside the box!

Thanks to Matthew Rogers, Mango Matter!


#6- Using a three-part process

Photo Credit: Rameez Ghayas Usmani

I use a Creativity technique called Disney Method that is used in order to refine ideas by breaking the process into three different parts i.e Dreamer, Realist, and Spoiler. First I isolate myself from distractions and collect my thoughts/dreams in a quiet place then I convert them into the most excellent and absurd ideas as possible. In the second stage, I re-examine and re-work those ideas into being realistic and more practical. In the final stage, being a spoiler I spend more time evaluating a well-thought idea with a bit more structure to be implemented on. Another method that I use is a Stimulus Word Method where I use buzzwords as mental trampolines to discover new ideas. Mostly, these buzzwords are not related to the main query. I also use a website called IdeaClouds that helps me implement these ideas on virtual Whiteboards.

Thanks to Rameez Ghayas Usmani, PureVPN!


#7- Two ways

Photo Credit: Shahid Hanif

When I think of further enhancements of the product, I ask myself one question, where will be the industry in five years? once I've some insights, I plan to get there within 2 years. In order to get better insights, I read a lot, conduct brainstorming sessions with my team and keep an eye on my competitors. Another way is to think beyond your current product range. I pick up certain fraud issues from different industries and then try to find their solution that my company can offer. This is how I and my team came with the new product touchless airport security kiosk. It'll be the first time we'll provide the hardware as well along with the software. This new product added a new angle to our product range.

Thanks to Shahid Hanif, Shufti Pro!


#8- Isolation is key

Photo Credit: Jeremy Owens

There’s nothing more annoying than getting your thought process interrupted when you’re trying to juice out the next big thing for your business. As such, I put my phone on DND mode and put myself in complete isolation to gather my thoughts to think of a fresh idea. If I’m out of creative juices, I tend to consume success stories as inspiration to fuel my drive.

Thanks to Jeremy Owens, Seriously Smoked!


#9- Involving employees

I like to go to all of my employees once every quarter and ask them what they would do to grow this business if I gave them unlimited resources and told them their only job was the double the revenues of this business. Some of our clients best business ideas come from managers and employees who are interacting with customers all the time but don't have an outlet for sharing some of the ideas that come to mind. Employees enjoy contributing to the growth of the business and feeling like their opinion helped move the needle. It also increases buy in from everyone that the whole company is on the same team.

Thanks to Christopher Sica, The Ronin Society!


#10- Being mobile in what we do

Photo Credit: Elliot Reimers

The best way to think outside the box in business is to not become stuck on the idea of ‘its worked before, so will work again.' At the core level, every business owners works in the service industry, and we must take our leads from the people using these services. Think to yourself ‘What do people want? Why do they want it? is it realistic? does it match our ethos?' If the answers to these questions make sense, then there is no shame in adapting and developing your business to meet the needs of an ever-evolving world. Stay grounded in who are, but mobile in what you do'

Thanks to Elliot Reimers, Rave Reviews!


#11- Keeping white space on my schedule

Photo Credit: Paige Arnof-Fenn

I consume alot of pop culture/news/fashion/business/health/sports media both online and offline so my antenna is always up for new ideas and trends. I have several hobbies and am part of various groups that do not overlap so get exposed to different people regularly. I love asking questions and just learning from others to spark my creativity. I find keeping white space on my schedule is great to get the creative juices flowing too.

Thanks to Paige Arnof-Fenn, Mavens & Moguls!


#12-Modifying what the competitors are doing

Photo Credit: Jason Davis

Many entrepreneurs are focused on what their direct competitors are doing and don't stray too far from the norm. The real key is to look outside of your industry at how modern businesses are upping their game. Read tech and business news daily and get in the habit of brainstorming different ways you can do something similar, but modified for your space and brand.

Thanks to Jason Davis, Inspire360!


#13- Four steps

Photo Credit: Nikola Roza

Step#1- Defining the box. The box in this case is how and what people think about X. Step #2- Be different. Now that I see what is common, I know I have to go beyond that and in a different direction. Step #3 Do the new thing. For me, thinking outside the box is useless unless I take direct action that either validates or destroys my idea. Because, whatever I do, the real world quickly proves me either right or wrong. Step #4- ReiterateI'f I am proven wrong, I don't give up.I simply learn and then press forward because I know that with the new knowledge gained, I have higher chance of succeeding next time. It's important not to quit when setbacks happen.

Thanks to Nikola Roza


#14- Doing the non-traditional

Photo Credit: Michelle Mekky

My business started in the most non-traditional way – no funding, no business plan, just me and my laptop and my brain. Everything I have done while assembling the business and growing it has been through the lens of thinking outside of the box. So I try to apply that to everything we do. I go for the non-traditional, non-predictable PR campaigns for my clients, I created no set hours for my team, unlimited PTO, and numerous more non-traditional company processes. It keeps us fresh, creative, and with space to be healthy and whole for our client work and it helps foster a culture of passion and teamwork. Given our changing world looking at business in this way has helped us navigate success and stand strong during tough times.

Thanks to Michelle Mekky, Mekky Media!


#15- Finding a different path

Photo Credit: Jason Power

Thinking outside the box is about being different. When everyone else is zigging, you're the one zagging. However, this doesn't mean you have to do the opposite of what others are doing. It's about finding a different path that will lead you to a better result. By no means is this an easy task. To arrive at such an idea, everyone is different. If you're someone who doesn't like to work in loud or busy environments, go for a walk or a hike on your own. Clear your head and let the idea come to you. If you are someone who likes an engaging work environment, talk out loud. Brainstorm your thoughts with peers and don't worry about saying the wrong idea. Continue until you have your solution. Everyone has great ideas; the struggle is communicating and executing them.

Thanks to Jason Power, The Hearing Clinic!


#16- Using Theory of Inventive Problem Solving

Photo Credit: Tim Absalikov

From many creative methodologies, use TRIZ(Theory of Inventive Problem Solving). Support it with the systematic collection of the database. Make a Google table with the following tabs:- barriers to creativity, effects of inertia of thinking, effects of intuition and insight, techniques of creative thinking. No matter what creative technique you encounter, decompose it in a spreadsheet. Be sure to apply what you’ve recorded in practice during a team brainstorming. Filter the results of the assault using ICE score prioritization. And score the result of the application through the ROI.

Thanks to Tim Absalikov, Lasting Trend – Digital Marketing Agency!


#17- Asking why

Photo Credit: Madeleine Seah

The simplest way to think outside of the box is to question why we are doing things in a certain way. Humans are creatures of habit; we stick to our routines because we are wired to resist change and to steer clear of the unknown. However, our routines may not be the most effective and can hinder creative thinking. Asking why can help to reveal flaws and is therefore, important when trying to think outside of the box.

Thanks to Madeleine Seah, Astreem!


#18- Forging and thinking ahead

Photo Credit: Lisa Schaefer, Ph.D.

I'm not interested in the same performance measures most people value, thus I do not follow what has been done before. My goal is to envision what ThinQ.tv could be 30 years from now, not how much money can I make for an investor. I'd rather focus on creating something for social people with curious minds. I've always been good at pulling together what I have and seeing what I can assemble rather than spending time looking for more pieces without ever building anything. I embrace forging ahead without certainty because recipes are either just a suggestion, or for people with no imagination.

Thanks to Lisa Schaefer, Ph.D., ThinQ.tv!


#19- Three ways

Photo Credit: Rahul Mohanachandran

I try to practice three things which help me and my team to think out of the box in our business. The first one is keeping an experimental mindset, it has helped me not to worry too much about making the wrong decisions. I consider each new challenge within the business as a chance to experiment, this usually triggers the blue-sky thinking that is needed to come up with an out of the box solution. The second one is thinking about Utopian solutions and see how that can be achieved, if it too far out of reach I will then look for the next best thing that can be achieved, this helps to keep the mindset of shooting for the moon. The third one is having a thinking partner or a team who can bounce ideas between them and build upon each other's ideas.

Thanks to Rahul Mohanachandran, Kasera!


#20- Keeping things fresh, updated and individualized

Photo Credit: Liam Flynn

The best ways to do this is firstly, recognizing that you are a creative. When starting a business you naturally tap into your creative side. Recognizing that and maintaining that attitude when looking to make change within your business is key. Appreciate the power of creative thinking because that ultimately will help your company. Another way is to hire a creative team or just allow the free flow of new ideas from anywhere and anyone within your business. Don't be too specific in where you receive your information. You may even have an epiphany or a spark of inspiration while walking your dog, as I have noticed the best ideas often come to me when my mind is relaxed. Look outside your industry, read and learn things from other businesses that could potentially inspire you. Be an experimenter first, a learner second and an implementer of what you've learned third. Lastly, make lists. This helps compartmentalize your ideas. When doing so aim for quantity not quality. No idea is too out there. This also helps with mixing totally different things to get completely new results. Such as, creating new services from current products and developing new products from current services. So don't add pressure when brainstorming these new plans!

Thanks to Liam Flynn, MusicGrotto.com!


#21- I have a couple of questions I ask myself

Photo Credit: Ruggero Loda

First, what's the one thing I know that's true about whatever I'm pondering. Usually the answer I come up with is supported by assumptions, rather than facts. And that's where the magic is. Because *then I challenge myself to come up with a list of things that go against the one thing I think has to be true. I give myself 10 minutes on a timer, and see how many I can come up with. Then I give myself another ten minutes to explore the most interesting. I don't always come up with great outside-of-the-box answers this way, but it primes me for more creative thinking about the problem, which more often than not leads me to better solutions.

Thanks to Ruggero Loda, Running Shoes Guru!


#22- Extending the lines “Outside the Box”

Photo Credit: Michael Levin

For me, Outside the Box thinking comes from brainstorming with others both inside and outside of my companies. I want ideas as to how we can do things better. When I conduct workshops and keynotes, I ask my attendees to do the exact same thing. Brainstorm about how they can do things better both personally and as an organization, especially within their scope of influence. I ask them to catch themselves if they start defending what they do now as it’s the natural thing to do. If we admit we could improve, we may feel it could reflect negatively on performance reviews or chances to be promoted as opposed to us “self-promoting” the things we do well. With that said, I do think it’s very important to also acknowledge your positive.s and give your people a chance to self-promote. That way they can be recognized for what they do well and be more open to looking for growth opportunities.

Thanks to Michael Levin, Custom Solutions Inc.!


#23- Changing my environment

Photo Credit: Gems Collins

In order to think outside of the box, I have to get outside of the box; i.e. I take myself out of the environment I'm currently in, in order to get a fresh perspective, most of my abstract thinking comes when I'm out on a walk! I then think about the challenge or project in relation to an entirely different industry. I find that looking at the situation within different and often nonsensical parameters helps me to find an entirely out-of-the-box solution. Change your environment, change your parameters and you'll find that the options and solutions you can create can be somewhat far-fetched, but exactly what you need!

Thanks to Gems Collins


#24- Following a simple process

Photo Credit: Bernard May

The idea of thinking outside the box can be a catch 22. You can go so far beyond (the box) that you can lose people but if you don't push far enough you may just be rehashing what has already been done…time and time again. Sometimes it just takes a small tweak to make an existing idea even better. This being said, if I am working a new idea, I will outline the main concept, why it matters, and how I envision it could work. Then I pitch or run the idea by others in my circle of trusted colleagues. I look for that ah-ha! or I get it! look in their eyes, and more importantly, everyone's gut reaction. If the idea causes people to react with Have you thought about adding this? or You could also do XYZ I know I am on to an idea worth exploring further. However, it is not uncommon to have someone chime in with another brand, product, or app that already exists and may already be a better version of my own idea. When this happens, sometimes I need to just accept that great minds think alike and move on to another idea. The size of the box is relative.

Thanks to Bernard May, National Positions!


How do you think outside of the box? Tell us in the comments below. Don’t forget to join our #IamCEO Community.

Mercy - CBNation

This is a post from a CBNation writer. CBNation is a Business to Business (B2B) Brand focusing on increasing the visibility of and providing resources for CEOs, entrepreneurs and business owners. CBNation consists of blogs(CEOBlogNation.com), podcasts (CEOPodcasts.com) and videos (CBNation.tv). CBNation is proudly powered by Blue 16 Media.

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