Thinking from Outside the Box

12 Oct Thinking from Outside the Box

Plumbing supply giant Tradelink have edited this article written by Matt Reynolds for their industry magazine Unplugged. Thinking from Outside the Box is approximately a 3 minute read discussing thinking techniques. You can read the full article below or navigate to page 20 via this direct link Thinking from Outside the Box. Either way, Enjoy!


Thinking from outside the box

Tips from our ‘plumber from the trenches’, Matt Reynolds, to get your creative juices flowing and tackle any problem head on.

Whether your role in the plumbing game has you swinging from the end of a shovel or sitting behind a desk, we all have challenges and problems to solve. Some of us can stare blankly at an issue for hours while others seem to have the knack of finding uncommon solutions quickly. ’Thinking outside the box’ is a concept we’ve all heard of, but remaining consistently clever in a trade governed by codes, rules and regulations can have the most creative of us rubbing the hair off the back of our heads!

Out of the box thinking is another way of saying to change the angle or perspective in which you see a problem in order to find a workable solution. Just as we develop habits we repeat over time – like the same morning routine or consistently driving to work the same way every day – our minds also default to unique patterns of thought and this can sometime stifle the creativity we need to solve a problem.

It’s not exact science, but our brains and plumbing do have somethings in common. You need piping to deliver water to different fixtures in a house. The piping is a pathway for the water to move from the meter to each specific outlet. Water cannot obviously move to a point outside of the system without additional piping. Our minds work in a similar way. When you think, signals move around the system in your mind just as water does in the piping. If you want new thoughts or a new perspective, you need either additional piping or to use the piping in a new way.

We all have the ability to add new piping, but here’s the problem. The piping in our minds gets laid based on our past successes and failures. Put simply, if we think about a type of problem in a way that proves successful, we will go right back to that thought pattern if a similar issue arises in the future. The opposite also applies, if we are unsuccessful in a method of problem solving we will likely abandon it for good and avoid it indefinitely.

This process has the virtual effect of plumbing ourselves into a mental corner and we eventually become stuck in our ways. Turning your problem into a solution is much easier with a bag full of thinking options. Just because a method has or hasn’t worked in the past doesn’t necessarily mean it will or won’t work in the future. It’s therefore smart to have a system or strategy for purposefully implementing a different way of thinking. Here are five ideas to keep your creative juices flowing and help add size to your ’out of the box thinking’ muscles:

  1. One at a time. A single problem can cause stress, fifteen problems on your plate at the same time is certain disaster. Problems should be tackled in order of priority, from most important to least important, one at a time to avoid becoming overwhelmed.
  2. Identify and simplify. Most problems are ten times smaller when they are actually written down and you know your intended outcome. Moving targets are hard to hit. So, pick up your pen (or iPad), write down the issue then clearly state the intended outcome to give you better clarity.
  3. Phone a friend. It pays to have good friends; some would argue it pays better to have smart friends and influential industry mates you can call on when you’re in a bind. Either way, when you’re waist deep in waste, a fresh set of eyes can often shed light on the impossible.
  4. Take a breather. From a quick stretch to a good night’s sleep, leaving the scene of a tricky problem and returning with a fresh set of eyes may bring clarity light bulb moment.
  5. Go against the grain. It is easy to think, act and live just like everyone else, but it’s also boring. Exploring different options doesn’t have to involve radical risk taking. Cover your downside and back yourself to try something unusual.

Thinking outside the box and being creative is not a gene any of us are born with, but we can use tricks that provoke creativity and stimulate our inner thinking pipes.

Good luck solving your next big challenge!