# Think out of the box

1. Jan 7, 2005

### EngTechno

How do you understand the word " Think out of the Box " ? give me some examples and your experience.

2. Jan 7, 2005

### derekmohammed

This is a poor example but:
One day in one of my physics labs the prof came in and made everyone sit down in testing rows and told us we had a to take a very important test. This came to a shock to all of us since it was the beginning of the semester. Anyway when he finally handed out the tests they were acually two sheets of papers with horses on them. The objective of the test was to put the two horses together to make one horse. At first everyone thought it would be redicuously easy but we soon found out this was not the case.

ANYWAY! What I am trying to say is that we had to look at the papers much diffrently then we would ever imagine to get the image. I think that thinking outside of the box is looking at probems in a manner that most people don't see. This was the case with the horses...

3. Jan 7, 2005

### omicron

Lateral thinking?
For example, you need to think out of the box for this.
A man went to a party and drank some punch. He then left early. Everyone else at the party who drank the punch subsequently died of poisoning. Why did the man not die?

4. Jan 7, 2005

### Staff: Mentor

Thinking outside the box is thinking in ways not normal for your line of work - its pattern breaking. Most jobs become repetitive very quickly, and your thinking regarding how to accomplish tasks quickly gets a well-defined envelope or box.

My job is a perfect example. I design air conditioning systems. If you've designed one office air conditioning system, you've designed them all. They're all the same. Or are they...? My boss prides himself on thinking outside the box (frankly, he's a bit of a kook): a significant fraction of our business is comes from fixing the mistakes of others who didn't think outside the box when the situation warranted it. One such job involves a typical office air conditioning system designed by an otherwise competent engineer who designs every system the same way (there is another engineer who we practically follow around in this way). The humidity in the building is upwards of 80% in the summer, curling papers, jamming copiers, and pissing off lawyers in wool suits. Why? The office is a title law office (people come in to close on their houses), with unusually low and variable load. As a result, the system runs at partial capacity and the first thing to suffer when you run at partial capacity is humidity control.
That's easy: it was the shrimp cocktail, not the punch.

5. Jan 8, 2005

### omicron

That could be one. The question came with this answer: The poison in the punch came from the the ice cubes. When the men drank the punch, the ice was fully frozen. Gradually it melted, poisoning the punch.

Last edited: Jan 8, 2005
6. Jan 8, 2005

### the_truth

"Lateral thinking?
For example, you need to think out of the box for this.
A man went to a party and drank some punch. He then left early. Everyone else at the party who drank the punch subsequently died of poisoning. Why did the man not die?

The man could have poisonned the punch or they could have been poisonned by something else at the party, or something before the party
or by gas poisonning.

There are so many answers. You need to think out of the box omicron. You uncreative repeater of pithy phrases.

Thinking out of the box is indeed pattern breaking. Basically thinking in ways which others do not, it is the foudnations of genius. Every thought is concievably insane, it is just in which situation and which subsequent action your thought provokes which determines whether it is lunacy or genius. Thinking out of the box may also encompass your ability to choose which is the best method of thinking.

Is it better to stand and watch cars driving on a road to determine what speed limit is best for the road or better to use statistics and a map.

or both ?

7. Jan 8, 2005

### omicron

Maybe YOU need to think out of the box too! Did you consider that maybe I had limited time on the net. Anyway I never said it was wrong! I didn't even type " NO THAT'S WRONG"! Although I said it in a very vague way (and I apologise for that), what I meant was that it wasn't the "most satisfying answer" that you can get. I know that there are many possiblities which fit the initial conditions of the question, but only the canonical answer is truly satisfying! If people think of these questions for you to get boring answers (like poisoned by gas poisonning), then wheres the fun in it? HELLO???? It is a lateral thinking question! For example. This one is a classic, some of you might know it.
There was a man who lives on the top floor of a very tall building. Everyday he gets the elevator down to the ground floor to leave for work. Upon returning from work though, he can only travel half way up in the lift and has to walk the rest of the way unless it's raining. Why?
Answer: The man is very, very short and can reach only halfway up the elevator buttons. However, if it is raining then he will have his umbrella with him and can press the higher buttons with it.
Yes, there are many solutions to this. For example, the elevator doesn't operate on higher floors when it isn't raining (i know, that was dumb) and etc...etc..... But the answer in white is much more "satisfying"!

Last edited: Jan 9, 2005
8. Jan 8, 2005

### FZ+

The analogue of mutation in the evolution of knowledge.

9. Jan 9, 2005

### the_truth

Oh noez!!!

And I wasn't looking for the most likely answer.. I am very impractical...

this means im not a genius BUT A LUNATIC

10. Jan 11, 2005

### Rybo

Outside a set of parameters that define the box concerned

ENG, Similar to Russ pattern breaking the norm, I would say that very often times in my jack of all trades work that I artificially or superfially set my own parameters based on my past experiences and sometimes narrow set-of-ways of doing things.

Many times when confronted with some problems it is often a co-worker who is outside of my pattern of doing things or solving a problem this way or that way who has a totally differrent way of solving or approcahing the same problem.

I think it outside the box can often mean just a viewpoint from another angle, from a larger viewpoint, or smaller viewpoint i.e. the parameter or pattern defined box can, and often does, limit our thinking or viewpoint.

Rybo

11. Jan 11, 2005

### Moonbear

Staff Emeritus
When I hear the phrase, "think outside the box," the first thing that comes to mind is the person giving those instructions is an empty-headed administrator type who loves to use buzzwords/phrases. I'm pretty sure it has always meant, "Nobody else has been able to come up with a good solution, so whoever does come up with a good solution must be thinking differently."

Okay, okay, okay, if the instructions are issued by someone other than a beaurocratic (sp?) bubble-head, I think it means to think creatively. Don't come up with the same old answers everyone has already tried and failed with, find a new answer that might actually work. The reason I think it's an instruction only given by bubble-heads is that just telling someone to think outside the box, or to think creatively, etc, isn't going to make it happen. To continuously come up with new solutions to old problems is quite a talent, and to ocassionally come up with such solutions is probably more luck, part inspiration, a bit of hunch, and some unique background experience thrown in. I don't know if you can learn it or not.

12. Jan 11, 2005

### Moonbear

Staff Emeritus
:rofl: I'm glad someone is thinking differently about that! I've decided that every HVAC system in every university building is the same. Never mind how many numbers are on the thermostat or whether they let you think you can change it or not; there are precisely two temperature settings: sauna and arctic. Today seems to be a sauna day, everything is hot and steamy inside. Yesterday it was arctic, dry and freezing. And every HVAC person you talk to says they have solved those problems with their design...they should be forced to live for a month in each building in which they've designed a system! But, I'm better off than most. At least if I fiddle with the dials on my thermostat enough, I can switch between arctic and sauna settings and achieve momentary comfort during the transitions, and haven't created an indoor thunderstorm yet; much better than when you're completely at the mercy of the building mechanics who decide what the temperature for the entire building will be and when to turn on boilers for the winter. :tongue:

13. Jan 11, 2005

### Andre

14. Jan 11, 2005

### motai

Thinking outside of the box, it reminds me of our calculus section on natural logarithmic integration. Kinda scary when the book tells us to "be creative" by messing up the integrand through addition and subtraction of random integers.

$$\int \frac {2x}{(x-1)^2}$$ and they turned it into:

$$\int \frac {2x - 2 + 2}{(x-1)^2}$$

What crazy randomness! :surprised Of course now I know what to look for *sometimes*, but when I first saw this problem I ended up staring at it for a long while. Definitely outside of the box. :grumpy:

Another outside-of-the-box situation is the entire "nailing jello to a tree" ordeal that is quite controversial around these parts.

15. Jan 11, 2005

### Moonbear

Staff Emeritus
I don't know about that. I'm pretty sure the easiest way to nail jello to a tree is to leave it in the box.

16. Jan 11, 2005

### Ivan Seeking

Staff Emeritus
Thinking outside the box = you had better be right!

17. Jan 12, 2005

### Alkatran

I loved designing the system that will be used in the estimation program I am working on for my job. When I started, the whole thing was limited to the houses in the catalog and all the 'items' in a house were stored on a HUGE spreadsheet (HUGE).

Well, one year later and the progress is amazing. The spreadsheet is still there but it's tottering on the edge of a very very deep cliff.

(The whole idea is to simply give an item a class (IE: Nail). It's a very simple concept but it wasn't in the program before and I had never heard of it before so...)

Also, I always love how I hear about some new idea and marvel at how it was thought up. I really wonder what the first guy to use a wheel, or a spear, was thinking. I also love how 'second order creating' as I call it is so simple.
You hear about a scooter modified for snow use and you think of modifying something else for snow use. Are you creative?

18. Jan 12, 2005

### brewnog

Sack that, I want to know what the guy who discovered milk was thinking! There was definitely some serious outside-the-box thinking going on there.

19. Jan 12, 2005

### Alkatran

Actually, I think it was a woman who figured that one out. duh

20. Jan 12, 2005

### Artman

This is very true. Real T.O.T.B. can place you in areas that are unexplored and untested. This can be nerve-racking especially where other people's money is involved.

I too work with HVAC design, and I am currently working on a project that has me simultaneously excited and worried. I did a study on a site to remove a humidity problem. I arrived at several common solutions that were terribly energy wasteful, some that were efficient, but expensive. Then there was one that was eloquent, low first cost, solved multiple problems at once and has no equal that I can find currently in use! My client decided to go with that one, the experimental solution!

It's safe inside the box. Outside the box you have to check everything because you are hanging out there alone.