Can you think out of the box?

out of the box

There are people who think out of the box, and then there are those who think in it. Which one are you?

Few quick puzzles before we begin:-

  • Turn the Roman Numeral Nine – IX into a 6 by using just one line.
  • How can a man go eighteen days without sleep? 
  • Insert one line anywhere in the following equation so that it makes sense:
    • IO IO II = IO.5O
  • Why is it against the law for a man living in Delhi to be buried in Mumbai?

We will come back to the answers later.

Experience can make you blocked

I once met a Japanese Surveyor at Onahama, Eastern Japan. He had 45 years of experience – which was way more than my age!! He knew everything that can go wrong with the ship and was there to oversee the operation and solve problems.

I did not have as much experience as he did.

When things went wrong, however, a strange pattern emerged. This was not one of those problems which he had faced before. He was not prepared for it.

Apparently, I was.

I had not faced such a problem either, but something inside told me everything can be solved. I started thinking of the various ways it can be approached, new ideas started emerging. He became agitated and out of control. Asking him to pacify, I had solved the problem in a few hours.

Needless to say, he was impressed, and I still have an open job offer, should I ever decide to relocate to Japan.

In any profession, a person who can foresee problems is an asset. But one who can handle any unexpected problem at the blink of an eye is invaluable!!

Thinking out of the box

In the psychology of decision making, one of the most invaluable assets which you could have is the ability to think out of the box. People who have lateral thinking capabilities often also has this ability.

One who arrives at the most obvious answer to a question and fails to see the other possibilities is a great conformist. He may do great in academics, given that the education system seldom teaches us to think out of the box.

But in the real world, I would trust that person with my life who knows how to experiment and see different angles. Such people solve problems much faster and more efficiently.


Doctors have been known to diagnose problems in a patient just by seeing his posture. They can be more accurate than pathological tests.

A composer may imagine the sound of a bird synchronized with a whole band of sophisticated instruments and just knows that it makes sense!!  Even before the music is created he knows that it will simply work!!

Thinking out of the box is a miracle cure to many situations in life.

Ask yourself:

  • When following a recipe in the kitchen, do you often try to mix things up, or do you follow the recipe word for word? Even if that mixing up does not give you great results, do you still do it next time?
  • Do you trust your instincts to do your job? Do you often have a feeling something is just right?
  • Did you ever find that in school, apart from the answer given in the book or that explained by the teacher, you managed to find out a different way to solve the problem?
  • As a child, did you try to draw a picture with always a reference to follow, or did you go extempore in your art, experimenting all the time.
  • Do you find humor in everyday situations and can you make people laugh by it?
  • Are you good at solving puzzles and do you tend to find the answers instinctively?
  • Did you ever make up a puzzle or a brain teaser yourself?
  • Do you often solve simple problems at home?

If any of the answers above is a YES, you have what is called Lateral thinking, or the ability to think out of the box.


How to develop this habit?

  • Solving puzzles is a great way to get your mind trained for that.
  • People who play chess, especially at a young age, develop a way to train their brains to think of various possibilities and use them to their advantage, because of the dynamics of the game.
  • Solving Sudoku can give you a similar thought pattern.
  • Try finding humour in everyday situations. Our perfect coordination of right and left brain gives us the ability to think out of the box, which is also what produces humour. I have explained that in detail in this blog and in my e-book.

Eventually, in real life, problems are not Black and White. To win, you must start seeing the grey shades, the numerous approaches which can lead to a solution. This can make you invaluable in your personal and professional life!!

The answers to those puzzles now!!

  • Try turning the Roman Numeral Nine – IX into a 6 by using just one line.

Add a curved line before it, that curved line is an S – 


  • How can a man go eighteen days without sleep? 

Because he sleeps at night!!

  • Use one line to make sense of the equation:
    • IO IO II = IO.5O

Forget mathematics, it’s not 10.5, it’s TIME – ten fifty!!

IO TO II = 10.50 (Ten to Eleven is 10:50 – That line is put over the top of I)

  • Why is it against the law for a man living in Wisconsin to be buried in Atlanta?

 Hey!! Because he is still “living”!!!

If you have guessed the answers to the above (unless you already knew them) you are one of those people whom I would trust with a job.

You have lateral thinking or instinctive thinking ability.

You can think out of the box!

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