Being able to “think outside the box” shows that you can apply yourself and your knowledge to areas that others might have missed. Of course, there are some professional ways to say this too, and this article will explore some of the best options available to you.
The preferred versions are “apply yourself,” “see the bigger picture,” and “be creative.” All three sayings are great to show that we want someone to express themselves in a more creative or imaginative sense. This could help to solve problems that others might miss.
“Apply yourself” is a great way to show that you’re willing to think outside the box and see things others might not. If you “apply yourself” to your company, it means you’re putting a lot of care, thought, or time into the work you produce.
Therefore, when someone says “apply yourself,” they mean that you should think about your solution in a more specific manner.
People will use this phrase when they believe in you. If they know you can come up with something more imaginative than you already have, you’ll probably find them using this phrase to encourage you to do so.
- I want you to apply yourself. I know you’re capable of more than this, and I want to see what you can do when you’re in control.
- I need you all to apply yourself more. Why do you think I hired any of you? It wasn’t because of your good looks.
- Just apply yourself, and you might be surprised with what you find out! You never know!
See The Bigger Picture
“See the bigger picture” is an idiomatic expression that works well in a professional context. We can use this one to reference thinking outside the box because it encourages someone to look at the bigger idea of a solution rather than the smaller issues.
On the surface, it can be easy to focus on the small things that you think need changing. Allowing yourself to see the bigger picture will show you that there’s more going on than you first realized.
This usually helps people to come up with more creative ways to solve something. Professional environments are always looking for people with the capacity to think in this way.
- I can see the bigger picture now. I know what my boss was asking of me, and I’ll be sure to let him know my solution.
- It’s time you all saw the bigger picture. We can’t keep circling the same ideas because we’re not getting anywhere with them.
- If you can’t see the bigger picture, then I really don’t know why you’re here. You’re not offering us anything new.
“Be creative” is a simple phrase we can use to replace thinking outside the box. It works well because it acts as a demand by using the verb “be.” This allows us to encourage someone to be more creative with their solutions to problems.
- I want you to be creative before you come at me with ideas like this again. Is that so much to ask for?
- Will you be creative, please? I don’t think you’re trying hard enough to come up with something that’s actually going to work.
- Let’s be creative together. I know we’ll be able to come up with something if we just put our two minds together for once.
Think About It
“Think about it” is a simple idiom we can use in a professional setting. It encourages someone to think a little bit harder. If they’ve already come up with a solution, but it’s not what we’re looking for, we could encourage them with this phrase.
For example, if we need to solve a task, we might go to another colleague for help. They might suggest one way of doing it, but we’ve already tried that way, and it didn’t work.
Now, imagine we know that the colleague we’ve asked has a brilliant mind. They’re more than capable of coming up with something better than that solution. We might say “think about it” to encourage them to put more time into their solution.
By the time they’ve given it more thought, they should be able to give us an actual solution that will work.
- Before any of you answer, I encourage you to think about it. I think you’re all capable of figuring this one out.
- I want you to think about it longer than that. I know you’ve got it in you. You just need to find it.
- Think about it for a second. Why would that solution make sense? I know you know of a better one!
Break New Ground
“Break new ground” is a professional idiom used to ask someone to come up with new ideas. If we “Break new ground,” it means we have explored ideas that nobody else has spent time on yet.
It comes from the idea of exploring new countries or continents. When you “break ground,” you are the first one to step foot on the land. Usually, you would place a flag to represent the civilization you came from.
The same can be applied to businesses. You can “break ground” with a new idea, as long as nobody before you came up with the same thing.
- I’d love to break new ground one day. I’m very imaginative, but I can’t seem to come up with anything new at my workplace.
- It’s time you broke new ground, Sarah. I want to see you really apply yourself to this company.
- I want to break new ground. I impressed my boss with what I said last time, but I can do better than that.
“Generate ideas” is a simple phrase that works well. It’s another form of encouragement that instructs a colleague or employee to go away and “generate” something new that might impress us.
It doesn’t strictly refer to them coming up with new or imaginative ideas, but it’s inferred from the context. If they haven’t come up with anything creative yet, we could use this as a form of encouragement.
- It’s time you generated some ideas before coming back to me with anything. Good luck with that.
- I will generate ideas surrounding this and get back to you. I know we’ll come to some kind of agreement in no time.
- Let’s generate ideas to take to the boss. I think that’s going to help us win his trust back after this mishap.
“Be unconventional” works well in a professional setting. “Unconventional” thoughts are great ways to see what someone might be able to come up with. Usually, this will help to solve problems that others might not be able to.
Most people think “conventionally.” This means that they’re only looking at a problem on the surface. If you can dig deeper than that and come to your own conclusions, it’s likely that you’re able to think unconventionally.
- I need you to be unconventional with this project, Matt. I know you have a lot to offer that’ll help us out.
- I want to be unconventional. It’s time that I showed my colleagues what I could do, and I think I’ve earned that right.
- Be unconventional whenever you get the chance. It’s the best way to show off your skills, and I think it’ll do you good.
Trust Your Instincts
“Trust your instincts” means that someone believes in you to come up with a good solution. If you think outside the box, it means you’re looking for something that others might miss. “Trusting your instincts” works in the same way, especially if it goes against other suggestions.
Let’s say you’ve thought about your own solution to a project, but nobody else has mentioned it yet.
Most people wouldn’t mention their solution because they would believe it’s incorrect. After all, nobody else has said anything, so what makes you think you know more.
Well, if you trust your instincts, you’re setting yourself up for much more success. If it was the first thing that came to your head, and it is a good solution, you should let someone know about it.
- I need you all to trust your instincts in this one. Do whatever comes naturally, and we’ll be sure to come up with a reasonable solution.
- Trust your instincts, Nate. It’s time that you tried to apply yourself a little more to show us what you’re made of.
- I want to trust my instincts, but I always worry that nobody will listen to me. I hate living like this!
“Be resourceful” is another suggestion we can use in a professional setting. This time, we use “resourceful” to show that we can come up with fresh, new, or creative ideas.
- I would love for you to be resourceful when we’re talking about these things. It’s important that you know why you’re here.
- Let’s be resourceful and show him what we can come up with. I reckon we’ll surprise him.
- I’d like to try and be resourceful more often. I need to take a few courses to make sure I know what I’m doing.
Martin holds a Master’s degree in Finance and International Business. He has six years of experience in professional communication with clients, executives, and colleagues. Furthermore, he has teaching experience from Aarhus University. Martin has been featured as an expert in communication and teaching on Forbes and Shopify. Read more about Martin here.