It shows up in social media profiles.
People say it at meetings.
It's an expression people use during job interviews.
Yet, the phrase "think outside of the box" is one of the worst cliches in the history of cliches.
To utter this phrase as a way to explain that you are an innovative thinker or have powerfully inventive new ideas, that you're an outlier who doesn't follow the normal course of action, or that you will invent some amazing new app or product...is a bit nuts.
First of all, the phrase is so overused that it's the first sign that you are, in fact, not thinking outside of the box...because you are using a cliche. It might seem like a good way to communicate a concept quickly and efficiently, but the person listening to you will know, maybe down in the deep subconscious, that you are not that innovative.
The words and phrases we use matter a great deal, because hidden within our vocabulary and our phrasing in every conversation is a hint of what is really true, what we really mean. There is the surface idea--what the words mean and what we are trying to relay. And then there is the deeper hidden meaning and purpose behind the words and phrases we use.
Another overused phrase is "the light bulb moment" which might also seem like a good way to communicate about an idea, but the truth is that, if you are talking about a light bulb moment with someone then it is probably not a very good light bulb moment.
Similarly, those who are thinking outside of the box don't ever talk about boxes or being outside of them.
In my experience, the real innovators, the true visionaries, the folks who will invent something that is actually brand new and shocking are the ones who never talk about how it's innovative at all, and they definitely never use cliches. The sparks fly, the ideas germinate, the creativity sparkles--you can see it from a distance.
They do more than talk.
This is critically important to anyone who wants to be an entrepreneur. There's something very guttural and mysterious about true entrepreneurship. It's a complex arrangement of gears and pulleys and strands of thought and vestiges of previous ideas all rolled into one stunning plan that is beyond words. It's mostly an act of ingenuity, not a description of one.
Truly inventive people don't ever talk about being inventive. Meanwhile, the posers and people who insist they "think outside of the box" tend to talk about it constantly.
I believe all of the talk is making up for the fact that the idea is not that great and the creativity is not that profound. It's a leading indicator of the mundane.
Next time you think about that phrase "think outside of the box" try to catch yourself.
Why are you saying it?
What are you trying to prove?
Who are you trying to impress?
Don't say the phrase. Come up with a profound idea and then implement it.
Everyone else will talk about it.