It's a metaphor that means to think differently, unconventionally or from a new perspective. Make an effort to push your thinking up to and beyond its limits every now and again! Here are some ways to strengthen your outside-the-box thinking skills.
Learn from others.
The best resources can be other leaders and professionals. It doesn't matter if the "others" are highly experienced or new to the field. Highly experienced people can provide you with ideas they've learned, adjusted, and fine-tuned; however new professionals and youth can bring new perspectives that provide new ways of thinking.
Read and explore.
Leaders working on behalf of young people must be "lifelong learners." There are an amazing amount of resources available in many different formats—books, articles, websites, Twitter feeds, YouTube videos, et cetera. As leaders, we need to read and explore what others are doing and sharing.
Encourage play and manage failure.
When failure is framed by reflection and iteration and less by penalty and closure, we're more likely to loosen up in our efforts and be less afraid to make mistakes. Once we are less afraid to make mistakes, we open up the environment for play and experimentation. As leaders, we can create an environment for others to take risks in their own projects.
Change your routine and invite randomness.
Get away from your typical routines, to foster creativity. The idea of changing it up is a common one amongst successful and creative thinkers. This means you either create a specific ritual around creativity or you simply find a way to take a break. Embracing randomness, mistakes, and misinterpretations and incorporating them into your daily life can create new thinking. At times, you'll want to develop strategies and integrate the potential for randomness to occur. Working amid some creative and sometimes chaotic patterns can lead to awesome innovative ideas.
Study another profession.
I've learned so much about teaching and learning by exploring and studying other professions. Others have incredible ideas, strategies and concepts that can be utilized as-is or modified to create new and exciting applications. In the education world, we talk about "Beg, borrow, and steal" ideas along with "Don't recreate the wheel." Often, other professionals are more than willing to share. As a professional yourself—and a leader—you need to be willing to share in return.
Dr. Scott Klungseth, NAA Executive Member, is the Director of Beresford PRCE, which oversees the Watchpuppy Pre-School, After-School and Summer Kids Connection, and Family-Based Recreation Programs in Beresford, South Dakota. Dr. Klungseth also serves as an Assistant Professor of Education at Dakota State University and is one of the inaugural NAA/TOY Association National Play Ambassadors.