The act of thinking (which few people seem to do these days) in a way that is nonstandard, or having independant thought. Society does not want you to think outside the box.

See "think outside the box!".

The ability to "think outside the box" is what all those damned consulting companies rabidly desire in their newly-recruited associates. To test for proximity of thought to box, the companies conduct case interviews with their prospective hires. Out-of-box thinking supposedly leads to innovative solutions for the customer.

*beep* *beep* This phrase sets off the Wankometer.

More specifically the box is a reference to a cubicle. This is an allusion to the phenomenon that once trapped in the swirling waters of corporate culture, it is difficult to think creatively and break from the flock.

I just wish someone would let me out of the damn box. Oh sure, I can think outside the box just fine. No problemo. But getting outside of this fucker? Do you realize how hard it is to even get a day-pass? I had to trade a weeks worth of JELL-O™ rations with my leash keeper just to get 12 hours with the lid open. And they made me wear a rubber mask and I didn't even get to watch TV.

Do you know how painful it is to be beaten by a large bald man with your own catheter? It fucking sucks. You know, now that I really think about it, being outside the box wasn't really all that great. A change of scenery, sure, but it wasn't really all that special or anything. Nope, no more outside the box for me cause, between you and I, it's just not worth it.
I'd rather have my fucking JELL-O™.
I remember the first time I heard this phrase, in a job interview about three years ago. I had the reputation for being an outspoken iconoclast around those parts, so one of the interviewers, a future corporate asskisser type, asked me if I "thought outside the box". I think I muttered something like "Excuse me?", but what I was thinking was "What box? What the fuck are you talking about?" I didn’t get the job, which is good, since I didn’t have to work under idiots who use phrases like "Thinking outside the box".

That commercial (for what I can’t remember – effective advertising, eh?) which featured the phrase prominently debuted not to long afterwards, which I think helped drive it from buzzword to cliché. I recall using it (sarcastically, of course) in class while I was lecturing on Oedipus Rex. Oedipus was able to outwit the Sphinx when no one else could because Oedipus "thought outside the box". Big laugh, and it drove the point home. I love moments like those.

A coworker of mine once had a great response to this phrase, "I didn't know there was supposed to be a box".

Frankly, if people who claim to "think outside the box" actually could,
they could come up with a different metaphor.

tregowith: Outside the box

Actually drunkenmonkey's co worker is right! If you've ever Jerry rigged, used Yankee ingenuity or done something so something awe-inspiringly impressive, usually after a long period of frustration and maybe shouted There is no spoon! then you have positively thought outside the box. It's done by taking a perceived weakness and turning it into an advantage. Everyone has the capacity to come up with a clever solution to a problem and are capable of thinking out side of the box. I am sure all people have out of the box thinking moments. It simply means to think creatively, even within the limits of reality. To let thoughts be free from the confines of solid walls, rigid barriers or anything that may limit the scope of the imagination, unconventional thinking would work as well to describe the idiomatic phrase.

Sometimes my family competes with tales of their out of the box thoughts at the family reunions. Great-grandfather was thinking outside the box when too tired to pick up his hat after a hard day plowing the fields when he tied the four corners of his handkerchief together and put it on his bald head to keep the flies from bothering him, Grandfather was thinking outside the box when he warned Cousin Ricky one Tuesday morning during milking that the hornets in his barn only sting on Tuesdays. Dad was thinking outside the box when the pick up died suddenly in the middle of the desert. Knowing it was vapor lock he spit on the fuel line to cool it down and get the truck stated again. Dad also licks the envelope instead of the stamp because he doesn't like the taste of the glue. ah well We were happy when the post office finally came out with their peel and stick stamps . On a camping trip the formula for Number One Son was cold from the ice chest, so wrapping it in a towel and setting it on top of car engine to warm it up we soon had a happy camper and my sister not having a plumb line was thinking outside the box at two in the morning when she took the dust from the bottom of a bag of Cheetos and rubbed it on a kite string then used it to snap a straight line on her kitchen wall so her wall paper would hang straight.

From Jack Kilby who addressed the basic problem of large quantities of components in elaborate circuits. He decided the only thing a semiconductor house could make cost effectively was a semiconductor. Kilby realized that, since all of the components could be made of a single material, at first used germanium, then later silicon, lead the way to the reducing size and increased capacity of computer chip technology. There are animals who think out side the box too, like champanzees using sticks to lure termites out of their mounds. It's a children's well-known mathematical puzzle called the Nine Dots Puzzle that is the most likely source for this phrase.

What you see:

  • Nine dots on a field of paper
  • The first row has three dots
  • The middle row three dots directly underneath
  • The bottom row three dots lined up with the others
  • Here is the pattern like this:
  • 
            . . . 
            . . . 
            . . . 
What that infernal puzzle maker wants you to do:
  • Copy it on a piece of paper
  • Connect all nine dots
  • Use only four straight lines
  • No lifting your pencil from the surface of the paper
  • No tracing over any of the lines you already have
  • But! Lines may cross.
A professor from the College of DuPage, Daniel Kies explains on his web site:
    "When most of us look at the field of nine dots, we imagine a boundary around the edge of the dot array. In doing so, we limit ourselves to trying solutions to the puzzle that only link the dots inside the imaginary border. The result is futility. We can only solve the puzzle if we realize that there is no border."
The solution in a write up by m_turner appears here, but give it a try first:. Hey it's a childs' play, so no peeking until you try!

Sources:

The Maven's Word of the Day:
http://www.randomhouse.com/

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