Smart Thinking

Thinking outside the Box

The term Thinking outside the Box originates from an early 20th century puzzle. It teaches us to think beyond conventional boundaries and constraints.

The term Thinking outside the Box originates from an early 20th century puzzle.

The objective is to connect the nine points (or circles) using a maximum of four straight lines without lifting pen from the paper.

Thinking outside the Box

Figure 1 – Connecting the 9 points problem

The mind feels compelled to respect the boundaries of the box. Assumption of constraints therefore misdirects the problem solver’s attention.

Thinking outside the Box – A Solution

There are many solutions, which are readily apparent once the problem solver realises that lines can extend beyond the box (hence ‘outside the box thinking.’). Figures 2 and 3 illustrate two solutions.

Solution to Thinking outside the Box

Figure 2 – Thinking outside the Box – A solution to the problem extending lines beyond the internal box

Alternative solution to Thinking outside the box

Figure 3 – An alternative solution

Thinking outside the Box has become something of a cliché, but as illustrated above has validity in lateral thinking.

Further Reading on Lateral Thinking Techniques

By Steve Nimmons

Steve is a Certified European Engineer, Chartered Engineer, Chartered Fellow of the British Computer Society, Fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology, Royal Society of Arts, Linnean Society and Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. He is an Electric Circle Patron of the Royal Institution of Great Britain, a Liveryman and Freeman of London and serves on numerous industry panels. He is a member of Chatham House, the Royal United Services Institute and the Chartered Institute of Journalists.