This is about going beyond boundaries.
think outside the boxFig. to think freely, not bound by old, nonfunctional, or limiting structures, rules, or practices. (As if thinking or creativity were confined in or limited by a figurative box. Compare this with think inside the box.) You won’t come up with good ideas until you think outside the box. Let’s think outside the box for a minute and try to find a better solution.McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
think outside the box
alsothink out of the box
to develop ideas that are different and unusual We need to think outside the box if we are going to come up with something really new. These guys are incredibly creative – they really know how to think out of the box.Usage notes: sometimes used with verbs other thanthink: You need to look outside the box and see what you can come up with.Etymology: based on the idea that limiting your thoughts is like thinking inside a box which can contain only a certain number of ideasCambridge Dictionary of American Idioms Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2003. Reproduced with permission.
The metaphorical “box” in the phrase “outside the box” may be married with something real and measurable — for example, perceived budgetary or organizational constraints in a Hollywood development project. Speculating beyond its restrictive confines the box can be both:
- (a) positive— fostering creative leaps as in generating wild ideas (the conventional use of the term); and
- (b) negative— penetrating through to the “bottom of the box.” James Bandrowski states that this could result in a frank and insightful re-appraisal of a situation, oneself, the organization, etc.
On the other hand, Bandrowski argues that the process of thinking “inside the box” need not be construed in a pejorative sense. It is crucial for accurately parsing and executing a variety of tasks — making decisions, analyzing data, and managing the progress of standard operating procedures, etc.
Hollywood screenwriter Ira Steven Behr appropriated this concept to inform plot and character in the context of a television series. Behr imagined a core character:
- He is going to be “thinking outside the box,” you know, and usually when we use that cliche, we think outside the box means a new thought. So we can situate ourselves back in the box, but in a somewhat better position.
The phrase can be used as a shorthand way to describe speculation about what happens next in a multi-stage design thinking process.