'Think out of the box' - but what does it mean?

In modern organisations innovation is no longer limited to R&D department. Nowadays all functions are expected to contribute to innovation. That strongly increases the pressure to be creative and innovative. Meanwhile, innovation related skills and knowledge are rarely delivered to staff external to R&D. That often leads to unreasonable expectations of management, lost potential for organisational growth and frustration of both, employees and managers.

Commonly the expectations for innovation are communicated by leaders by invoking the mantra ‘Think out of the box’. But how many employees will actually understand what they are expected to do?

Common lack of understanding and guidance together with the pressure to deliver results lead people to do just the opposite – whatever they are used to do. Instead of thinking innovatively, they focus on what is known and comfortable. It is our natural reaction to the limiting us ‘box’ which is made of:

1/ Internal fears,

2/ Discomfort with feeling uncomfortable,

3/ Past failures, and

4/ Status quo and politics.

What is crucial to develop the ability to think ‘out of the box’ is to develop a specific mindset – the innovation mindset.

Mindset is a set of beliefs that determines how we see the world around us and interpret information and situations. Innovation mindset is based, among others, on beliefs in unknown potential of individuals, reaching objectives by constant learning and the positive character of change. It allows us to contribute our skills and resources to innovation, identify potential of ideas across different sources and integrate them to generate meaningful innovation.

Developing innovative mindset is a great investment in improving your professional and private life. While the required change in our beliefs and habits is not easy, it is really possible! The basic steps require:

1.     Realising what the innovation mindset is – learning about innovative mindset may mobilize people to expose themselves to challenges, try harder to overcome the obstacles and recognise the value of learning from mistakes.

2.     Commit to work toward it – set important personal objectives – why developing an innovative mindset is relevant for you?

3.     Understand your personal barriers – look for fears, habits, risk aversion and other factors that limit your innovativeness, i.e. how often do you limit yourself to past experiences?

4.     Develop specific plan to overcome the barriers by focusing on positive behaviours – specific exercises and practices can help you change negative reactions into positive once or overcome your fears.

5.     Practice innovative mindset on daily basis – constantly practice productive behaviours to create behavioural change.

6.     Enjoy the development process and benefits of improving your mindset. Those reach far beyond professional sphere – the innovative mindset allows us to undertake extreme challenges with enthusiasm and give us the opportunity to reach seemingly impossible objectives rather than giving up in face of difficult circumstances.


Interested in developing innovative mindset? Follow our Erasmus+ Engage project: https://engage.erasmus.site/.

Open source interactive platform to be available in 2019 will include training on future oriented skills and behaviours, such as innovation mindset, emotional intelligence, perception, and more.

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