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Is 'Thinking Outside the Box' Necessary?

In the HR parlance, it’s common to hear about ‘thinking outside the box’ every now and then. If you are wondering what the phrase means, it refers to using creative and innovative problem solving methods. The “box” usually refers to looking at things and doing things the normal way. In other words, it’s about the assumptions and decisions that almost everyone involved will be making. So, the ideal way to 'think outside the box' is to recognize and challenge all the assumptions that other people would have made under usual circumstances.

Challenging assumptions

Challenging assumptions is a powerful technique to solve problems creatively. However, identifying the assumptions could often prove to be a difficult task. Still, there are some time-tested ways to handle the challenge.

Writing down ‘the obvious’ could help you spot common assumptions, after which you can challenge them, which in turn would initiate creative possibilities. Another way is to “assume the absurd” and come up with creative solutions to support your absurd assumption. Based on how open-minded your seniors are, such solutions could be either funny and innovative, or downright annoying. You can start with “what if” to make bizarre assumptions, and try to find ways that make sense of them.

Handle situations and problems with a new approach

As newer elements and technological advancements are incorporated in business models, the nature of problems may change. Often, old methods may no longer be effective in handling such situations or solving newer problems. This is when a fresh approach and ‘outside the box’ thinking are demanded. For example, as businesses increase the stress on ROI, HR personnel may start thinking about managing their decisions just like the management does. But unlike management that rates profitability and ROI highly, HR personnel will have to account for additional factors like ‘need for speed’ in various processes.

Even for technology-related matters, it pays to analyze and think innovatively before jumping on a bandwagon just because everyone else is doing so. A relevant point in this case could be the HRMS professionals who are now realizing that the greatest and latest technology might not be fit for their organization. Some HR experts even believe that products and services aimed at solving HR problems could end up doing just nothing as there may not be any problem to solve in reality. All these show why foresight and out-of-the-box thinking are required to analyze and decide what will serve the company in the long run.

Keep your eyes and ears open

Just because you work in the HR department doesn’t mean that you should shun every other news related to other domains. Being aware and open to techniques and ideas that come from outside the HR industry can truly make a difference when you put your thinking cap on. You could also literally step out of the office and look around to find how others are doing things. After all, you never know what will trigger your creativity. Don’t forget that Newton discovered the Law of Gravitation sitting in a garden! 

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