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How To: Help Employees Think Outside The Box

Creativity is an important attribute for anyone, and nurturing colleagues and employees to think outside of the box through creative thought will help them develop their own ways of dealing with different problems. Having the ability to work around an issue and tackle it in an alternative way to conventional means will give employees a leg up in their future educational and working careers. As such, teaching employees to think outside of their conventional boundaries is important for any employer.

Here are some strategies to help you, as written by a friend with master of arts in teaching:


This stands for Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to other use, Eliminate, Reserve and is a brainstorming activity to help employees think creatively. Using this model, an employer will ask questions that will help employees figure out new and interesting ways of solving a problem. These questions will act to stimulate employees to attack a problem from a range of different angles that they may otherwise not consider. Each of the words or phrases as part of the SCAMPER acronym will trigger a new question and way of looking at a question, giving employees 7 different alternative routes to a possible solution.

Agreement, Disagreement, and Irrelevance.

ADI is a method used to create open ended discussions. To use this method, employers need to introduce a topic of discussion that includes various different possible viewpoints. In general, this method is used within science topics and is intended to create debate among employees, helping them develop an increased understanding of any given topic. Naturally, participation from several different parties leads to a host of different solutions and contrasting viewpoints that helps employees to better see all sides of the same argument.

Creative Problem Solving.

This helps give employees the chance to work with problems that are open ended and that need a creative solution. As such, employees take personal ownership of the solutions that they come up with, helping to extend the learning process and make them more adaptable and creative within the context of the problem they are trying to solve. For this method to work, an employer should propose open-ended problems and then encourage employees to figure out some alternative solutions to them that require creative thought. Often, tangible tasks work well.

For example, employees could be tasked with creating the strongest and most durable bridge they can using simple items like straws, paper, and glue, with the strength being tested by resting weights on the bridge at the end. Not only does a task like this lead to creative thought, but it promotes competition between different groups, and cooperation within each individual group to do the best job possible.

These 3 methods are all hugely useful in developing a child’s problem solving ability. This invariably comes in handy when employees reach levels of higher education where problem solving becomes an important factor within many fields and courses. Employees who can only think within conventional boundaries often find themselves behind those who can develop new paths and solutions to problems that they face. As such, the ability to think outside the box will always give a student a better chance of gaining excellent exam and coursework results, as well as high profile jobs and future careers.

Young Upstarts is a business and technology blog that champions new ideas, innovation and entrepreneurship. It focuses on highlighting young people and small businesses, celebrating their vision and role in changing the world with their ideas, products and services.

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