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Implications of out-of-the-box thinking in the workplace

A critical discussion of out-of-the-box thinking in the workplace

By thepavsalfordPublished 8 months ago 3 min read

Thinking was originally posted by Jesper Sehested on Flickr and is uploaded here under the terms and conditions of the Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) Creative Commons license

The fuss about thinking out of the box

There has been much discussion about people with the ability to think out of the box.

Through the ages, these people have been seen in a very different light.

Galileo Galilei is major example of a prominent figure with this ability.

What was the result of his out-of-the-box thinking?

He had to face the Roman Catholic Inquisition, and was finally forced to abandon this type of thinking and go with the stream.

Others were luckier than Galileo, and their unconventional thinking was more broadly accepted early on.

Nowadays, there seems to be some degree of controversy about whether out-of-the-box thinking should be encouraged and rewarded, or rejected straightaway.

Is out-of-the-box thinking a good or a bad thing?

People admire, and sometimes envy, people with extraordinary skills.

Out-of-the-box thinking is such a skill.

Even though people hold in high regard those special persons who can think differently and help others get out of dead-end situations, progress, and improve, these special persons may never enjoy themselves the fruits of their noncomformist thinking; in fact, they may face repudiation, and feel unwanted and unwelcome, while their avant-garde ideas may be buried and forgotten in the end.

Therefore, although, in theory, the ability to think outside the box is generally believed to be highly sought after in a world that craves for talent, practice shows that thinking off the beaten path can prove to be a double-edged sword.

How do bosses treat employees with outside-the-box thinking skills?

Imagine that you own or manage a business, and you face a difficult situation that threatens your business to an extent that it may cause it to cease operating.

Then an employee of yours literally saves your business, and takes it from that difficult situation back to running smoothly and profitably again.

Without doubt, such an employee must be characterized by outside-the-box thinking skills.

Would you be willing, however, to accept as a boss, and, most importantly, reward these extraordinary skills, or ignore them and refuse to recognize them?

More often than not, bosses fail, for whatever reason, and are not willing, to understand and recognize the contribution of stellar employees to business success through radical ideas.

Do such bosses want to claim the glory for themselves?

Who knows.

Perhaps those leaders who cannot think outside the box themselves find hard to come to terms with the fact that someone else might have come up with a solution, and they failed to do so themselves.

How are out-of-the box thinkers and servant leaders alike?

An authoritarian leader may refuse to give credit where credit is due, i.e. reward an out-of-the-box thinker

On the contrary, an authoritarian leader may only give credit to himself or herself, even though he or she may not actually deserve it.

On the other hand, a servant leader would find a perfect match in an out-of-the-box thinker.

It is a situation that is similar to what astrologers call a perfect match made in heaven.

The encouragement and support that an out-of-the-box think gets from a servant leader would multiply the positive effect of his or her groundbreaking ideas.

Vice versa, a servant leader would see his or her authority becoming more solid and established in a business through the beneficial impact that the forward ideas of an out-of-the-box thinker can have on business success.

Should you be an outside-the-box thinker or a pack follower?

There are many forward-thinking employees facing the dilemma whether they should stay with a company that is led by a person who refuses to accept their contribution to the company’s success.

If these employees were led by a more open-minded leader who didn’t fight them but help them instead, they would enjoy their job more, and wouldn’t want to find another job.

However, when these employees realize that their out-of-the-box thinking doesn’t do them any good, but rather causes their boss to treat them as the black sheep, they start wondering whether it is worth continuing to offer their innovative thinking to further the company’s cause.

Instead, they start acting more “normally”, like other “ordinary employees”, who just obey rules and never express their opinion, no matter how valuable it can be.

Therefore, whether you should be an out-of-the-box or follow the pack depends on the actual workplace, which may reward one behavior or the other.

Sources and further reading:

Leaders: This Mindset Shift Can Make All The Difference

Thinking outside the box: 8 ways to become a creative problem solver

What It Means to Truly “Think Outside the Box”

10 critical thinking questions to think outside-the-box

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About the Creator



I have written articles for various websites, such as Helium, Hubpages, Medium, and many more.

Currently, I work as a translator. I have studied Tourism Management at college.

See you around on Vocal Media!

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