Thinking Outside the Box

Box There are risks to moving outside the box but there can also be great rewards.  With the current turmoil in health care, new innovative and potentially disruptive ideas will be needed.  So here are five strategies to improve your ability to move beyond the box as you face your challenges:

1.  Ask yourself whether your issue or challenge can best be solved using a traditional approach – if not, then it is time to be innovative in your thinking.

Not every issue or challenge requires out of the box thinking.  Many problems can be effectively solved using a more conventional approach.  But sometimes to achieve more effective outcomes, innovative thinking is required.  In the case situation above, the traditional approach to recruiting an OR nurse manager was not effective.

2.  Consider the problem from an entirely different vantage point.

When we are willing to examine a problem from an entirely different vantage point, our thinking can become more creative.  Asking ourselves what is really needed here becomes important.  When looking at the OR manager position, this leader was able to ask the question as to whether she needed a clinician or were strong leadership skills more important?  She had an experienced OR staff with few new graduates who needed coaching.  Business skills were an imperative.  To think outside the box, you need to ask “Is there another way to think about this?”

3.  Seek ideas and input from others.

Seeking the opinions of others can help in the creative thinking process.  As a nurse leader, you can improve your out of the box thinking if you seek ideas from those outside of your own profession.  Ask yourself how things are being done in other industries.  What ideas can be applied to this situation.

4.  Identify at least three different approaches to solving a problem with at least one approach being outside the mainstream of how you would usually manage a challenge.

Challenge yourself to identify at least three different approaches to solving a problem.  Getting out of the box means sticking with the problem longer, and looking at it from various sides.  This requires a willingness to take new perspectives to your day-to-day work.  In the box thinkers often believe that every problem needs only one solution; therefore, finding more than one possible solution is a waste of time.

5. Never dismiss a possible solution on the basis that it can’t be done.  Consider everything. Go through every possibility until you know for a fact it can or cannot be done.

Challenging your own assumptions can be the most difficult part of out of the box thinking.   Just because something  has always been one way, doesn’t mean that it has to continue to be that way.

Out-of-the box thinking requires an openness to new ways of seeing the world and a willingness to explore. It means considering other innovative options as the nurse leader in our case situation was able to do while recognizing that new ideas need nurturing and support.   Even great creative people can become in-the-box thinkers when they stop trying.  As nurse leaders, we need nurture our ability to think outside the box and promote this skill in others.


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