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Is Thinking Outside the Box Really Possible?

A man sitting in a box thinking with his hand on his head.I used to work beside a project manager who would always go on about thinking outside the box. To be honest, I never really paid that much attention when he said this, as it seemed like something which he only said for the sake of it.

However, now that I think about it I often think outside the box without even being aware of it as such. I guess we probably all do this and here are a few examples of the kind of thought process which shows that it is possible to think outside the box without too much effort.

Use Your Past Experience

If you have come to the project world from a different industry then you already know a number of different ways of doing things before you start as a project manager. For example, if you are used to working in the construction industry then you will know probably a few things about dealing with supplier and sticking to deadlines. This kind of knowledge is transferable to project management roles even if you can’t see the connection. In fact, it might even be better if you can’t see the connection, as this means that you will be coming at things from a completely different angle. No matter what career background you have there is no doubt that you can use your past experience to solve problems and to come up with innovative solutions. This means that you shouldn’t feel intimidated about putting forward alternative ideas solely because you don’t have a long track record of working on projects. You might even see a way of doing things which more experienced project managers would never come up with. This might not seem like thinking outside the box to you but it will do to someone who doesn’t have the same experience as you.

Think of Your Hobbies

We all have hobbies which we enjoy outside of work and these can be of great use to us in our careers as well. Whether you like to play golf, collect coins or travel you are sure to have some knowledge from it which could come in handy at some point. The precise way in which you do this clearly depends upon your hobbies and the type of situation you are in on the project. However, the main point to bear in mind is that it is possible to use something you have learned outside of work to help you think in a different way on a project.

What Would an Elderly Relative Do?

A little trick I like to use when I am stuck on a problem is to think about my Uncle Billy. He is the most sensible, experienced guy I know and he has lived through a lot in his life. He wouldn’t know what a project plan was if it came up and bit him but he is a straight talking Scot who always comes up with the simplest and most sensible answer to every question. When I am truly stumped by something I try and think about how we would approach the matter. This means forgetting about the fact that it is a project and forgetting about plans and stakeholders and everything else. Something getting down to the basics and approaching the issue with the mind of a retired shipyard worker can be classed as thinking outside the box as well.

Keep Practicing

There is no doubt that some people are better are thinking outside the box than others. This isn’t a question of intelligence but it does depend a lot upon creativity levels and how comfortably you can slip into this way of thinking. The best thing you can do if you want to get into the habit of thinking like this is to practice as much as you can. I once bought a book which helped me think more creatively so I know that things like this exist and are useful for people who want to add something extra to their project skills set. It isn’t something to get too hung up on in my opinion but if you can find some ways of practicing then you should think about doing so. If you like you could look ideas online for group sessions and get your whole team involved in it. It is something you won’t use every day of your career as a project manager but it is nice to have it as an ace up your sleeve anyway.

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