Is thinking outside the box the wrong approach?

Posted on November 10, 2014

Over the past few decades the concept of “thinking outside the box” to jumpstart the creative process has gained considerable attention and support. Creativity traditionally connected extant ideas and built on the past to create something new.

New research evaluates the two approaches. That is, is it better to “think outside the box,” using unrelated concepts to get the creative juices flowing, or to build on something more closely related to the problem one is trying to solve?

In a paper published in Design Studies, University of Pittsburgh graduate student Joel Chan and his mentor Christian Schunn, Ph.D., along with Carnegie Mellon University’s Steven Dow, Ph.D., have collected surprising evidence that nearer is better.

For people needing fresh inspiration for a problem, these findings imply that you shouldn’t just go off and talk to random people or read things totally unrelated to your problem, these might yield novel ideas, but not necessarily useful and novel ideas.

Chan and Schunn collected data through OpenIDEO, a web-based crowdsourced innovation platform intended to help people address a wide range of social and environmental problems. The diverse database includes content on issues ranging from human rights violations to job growth. They then entered it into an algorithm to determine whether an idea was near to or far from the posted problem.

This algorithm was first vetted against human judgments and proved to be quite good at determining idea distance. Then, the outcomes of the model proved adept at predicting the OpenIDEO experts’ shortlist and found that the vast majority of ideas that made the list were closely related to the posted problem.

The researchers theorise that creative ideas more often come from accumulating many small insights, stretching the boundaries just a bit at a time.

Click the link below to read the full article.

Source material from Psych Central

Mental Health News