Still trying to think “outside the box”? What are you thinking?

Still trying to think “outside the box”? What are you thinking?

Written By Jeffrey Gitomer

KING OF SALES, The author of seventeen best-selling books including The Sales Bible, The Little Red Book of Selling, and The Little Gold Book of Yes! Attitude. His live coaching program, Sales Mastery, is available at

Have you ever heard the expression, “Think outside the box”? Of course you have. It is, by its very nature, old before you start. There’s nothing innovative about outside the box thinking. You need to come up with a new expression if you’re going to start thinking new.

Outside the box thinking has been around since before email. (If you can remember when that was.)

I had breakfast yesterday with Rex Eagle. Rex is not an outside the box thinker – he’s an outside the world thinker. He’s an artist and a sculptor. Actually, he’s a practical artist and sculptor.

Rex specializes in wire sculpture, and many of his works adorn my home and offices. Coffee cup replicas of the Starbucks logo in wire, facial profiles, personal logos, and other modern designs, both male and female, depicting everything from smoking a cigar to holding an umbrella. All in wire. All one-of-a-kind pieces of art.

“I have an idea I want to run by you,” Rex said in an all-knowing way. “I want to talk about corporate communication and creativity.”

He showed me a few pictures of different size balls shadowed on a page and talked about how art can be used as a communication tool for executives looking to have their message heard, and looking to create a team. The art would be the medium for learning how to communicate on a higher level.

Like all new ideas, at first it seemed a bit outlandish, over the edge, impractical based on present circumstances, and, in general, not in the main stream. (Whatever that is.) But rather than simply brush it off, I decided to take a deep listen because of my respect for Rex and because of the possibility that his idea just might be a good one.

Rex’s idea is to create a corporate training program called, “The ‘Art’ of Communication,” that will use imagery and creativity to create a new dimension of thinking. Not to use the word “challenge.” But, rather, to use the word “opportunity.” What opportunities are there to create something new and create a meeting atmosphere where people don’t have to try be smarter than one another? Where they can collaborate as a team and try to make the idea better.

Rex told me that, “Outside the box thinking is an oxymoron. I would rather show managers and team leaders how to craft a ball out of a box. They would sit around a table and sketch, or sculpt, or storyboard an idea, and then collaborate to produce new ideas, or better ideas. There’s only one precondition to entering the meeting. You must enter with an open mind.”

Here are the steps to success in Rex’s program:

  1. Bounce ideas around the table. Once you storyboard the ideas, or draw them out on a flip chart, or some other means of visual communication, then you…
  2. Think about what you have done. Don’t talk about it. Think about it. Each person in the room spends some personal think time so that they can formulate ideas, rather than simply shout them out. Once think time has elapsed, then you…
  3. Express yourself with image-words. Each person is permitted time where they can draw out their idea of a box or a ball, or whatever the idea is that you’ve decided on. Simultaneously, all other participants must…
  4. Listen. Not listen with the intent to respond; listen with the intent to understand. Take notes at your space until it’s your turn. And each person is permitted as much time to express themselves as needed. Once the personal expression and listening section are completed, then you…
  5. Collaborate. This is where everyone has their crayons or writing instruments in hand, and works together in art form to help better ideas emerge. Once the ideas are mature, then the group will…
  6. Decide. Decide what’s best. Decide what’s most comfortable. Decide what will be accepted by others. And decide on a game plan to move forward. Once the decision has been made, it’s time to…
  7. Act. Actions as a result of decisions may not be the best method of moving forward. But actions based on bouncing ideas, thinking, expressing, listening, collaboration, and then deciding will be much more refined and much more likely to succeed. If true collaboration has taken place and there’s a consensus of opinion moving forward, then it won’t be difficult to take the final step. Rex may call it number 8, I’m going to call it…

7.5 Refine. All decisions, all actions, all creative ideas should be designed to be refined as they mature.

Well that’s Rex Eagle’s idea about creating a new form of communication. There haven’t been many new ones in the past 100 years. (Text messaging, not withstanding.)

How do you communicate?
What are your communication stumbling blocks?

If you’re complaining that people just don’t listen, then maybe you should draw a few pictures together, have an art class, maybe even call it “The Art of Communication.”