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I thought it was time for me to set the record straight on this important distinction that seems to get constantly muddled. In my marketing profession we are frequently challenged to come up with creative and new approaches to appeal to our target customers. This is properly termed “thinking outside of the box.” However, many people mistakenly use the similar expression “out of the box” which actually connotes just the opposite – i.e. a strategy or approach that is canned and can easily be repeated time and again with minimal effort.

Check out Ed Bernacki’s analysis of what it truly means to think outside of the box. He makes some good points . . . but then confuses the picture by improperly mixing these two very diverse expressions:

  • Thinking outside the box requires different attributes that include:

  • Willingness to take new perspectives to day-to-day work.

  • Openness to do different things and to do things differently.

  • Focusing on the value of finding new ideas and acting on them.

  • Striving to create value in new ways.

  • Listening to others.

  • Supporting and respecting others when they come up with new ideas.

Out-of-the box thinking requires an openness to new ways of seeing the world and a willingness to explore. Out-of-the box thinkers know that new ideas need nurturing and support. They also know that having an idea is good but acting on it is more important. Results are what count.

As you can see … that quote above just blends everything together and leaves one perplexed. Let’s think “outside of the box” and eat our cereal “out of the box” and we will be able to escape this predicament.