outside the box

We’ve all heard the phrase many times, but what does “outside the box” really mean? Where does the phrase come from? What kind of box are we talking about here? What is inside the box, and what is outside?

We all know that “outside the box” refers to original thinking in some way, but few people know the origins of the phrase. It comes from a simple puzzle or brain teaser known as the “nine dots problem,” and its solution.

The Nine Dots Problem

9 dots puzzle

Can you connect these nine dots with four straight lines without lifting your pen from the paper?

There is a very simple trick to this brain teaser. The trick is to put the pen outside of the area bounded by the 9 dots. Unfortunately, most people look at the nine dots as a kind of artificial boundary, though no real boundary exists. Many are simply unable to solve the puzzle.

As soon as one places the pen outside of the area bounded by the 9 dots, however, the solution becomes clear immediately.

9 dots puzzle solution

What we can learn about ourselves from the puzzle

  • We tend to put up artificial boundaries with our own minds where none exist.
  • We tend to look within established rules and patterns instead of outside of them.
  • Solutions outside of the established rules and patterns may even be invisible to us.
  • Once a solution to a previously intractable problem is displayed, it often seems ridiculously simple to us.

“thinking and writing outside the box”

Society, the educational systems, the government, the media, our parents and other authorities – all encourage us to think inside the box. They encourage us to conform rather than to rebel. They encourage us to work inside the existing structures and not to look beyond them.

From an early age, I was one of those people who could solve the nine dots puzzle and many others like it. I could see outside the box. Sometimes it is a gift, and sometimes it is a curse.

On this site, I shall endeavor to bring that outside the box thinking to these pages. I intend to show you how to complete some weird mind-bending brain teasers in the easiest ways possible.

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