How to Develop Out of the Box Thinking
I heard about a good example of creative thought. A college
class was given a simple problem solving exercise. They were
asked to brainstorm ways to use a barometer to determine the
height of a tall building. This was a chnce for some out-of-the-box
The more scientific minds came up with solutions like using
the change in the barometer readings from the ground to the top
of the building to determine the height. There would be less
pressure up higher, after all, and if the barometer was sensitive
enough, this information could be used to get within a few feet
of the true height.
Another student suggested dropping the barometer from the
roof. By timing how long it took to fall, the distance of the
fall - and therefore the height of the building - could be determined
using the usual formula for acceleration. Slightly more out of
the box in his thinking, one student suggested trading the barometer
for a sextant. Then he could measure his distance from the building
on the ground, take a sighting of the top of the building, and
use the angle measured to calculate the height.
That started everyone thinking more creatively. Soon there
were ideas like selling the barometer and using the money to
buy string, which would be hung from the top to the bottom, and
then measured. Perhaps the simplest idea, was to go ask for the
owner and tell him "I'll give you this nice barometer if
you tell me how high your building is."
Out of the Box Exercise
These kind of exercises are great for general exercise of
your brain. But they are especially good for stimulating creativity
and practicing your problem solving skills. You can do this alone,
but it is probably more fun and productive with the ideas of
several people bouncing off each other and generating new and
more creative solutions.
The following are some suggestions to get you started. You
can use this exercise just as an entertaining brain exercise,
or as a warm up before an important brainstorming session.
- How many ways can you use a pen to make money?
- Four of you are lost in the woods and need to cross a large
river. The river is slow, but deep and wide - and none of you
swim. All you have is the natural materials around you and a
3-meter by 3-meter heavy plastic tarp. How many ways can you
come up with to safely cross the river?
- You are trapped in a large plywood box, nailed tightly together
from the outside. You have the clothes you're wearing, plus whatever
is in you pockets. You also have a ski pole, a piece of paper
and a pencil. How many ways can you think of to get out of the
Note: I occasionally introduce new creative thinking
techniques in The Mind Power Report. If you haven't already
subscribed, you can do so on the side panel to the left.