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