If you’ve seen The Matrix, you probably remember this scene: Neo goes to visit the oracle, and encounter a child seemingly bending spoons with his mind. The child says to Neo: Do not try and bend the spoon. That’s impossible. Instead, only try to realize the truth. There is no spoon.
I think of this scene whenever I hear someone say “Think outside the box.” I say, don’t think outside the box. Instead, realize the truth: There is no box.
Thinking creatively is not about avoiding certain ‘in the box’ thoughts and ideas. It’s about letting ideas flow, thinking unobstructed, guided by the problem you are trying to solve. Don’t worry about the box. If it exists at all, it will still be there when you’re done.