I want to retire . . .

. . . a phrase.

Just like Blue Man Group held a funeral for the 80s I think it’s time we pack up a certain phrase, put it in a box and never utter it again.

That phrase?

“Outside the box.”

Admit it . . . it’s kind of cliche now, isn’t it?

I first heard it over a decade ago to describe unconventional thinking.  And now, because I’ve heard it so often, it is starting to sound conventional.  It’s true – saying “outside the box,” has actually become inside the box!

So it’s time to euthanize that hackneyed phrase and bury it.  Are you with me?

But that’s not all we can do.  Oh no.  We don’t just kill things here.  We have to create something too.  So we have to come up with something better – something that describes what is required of artists and entrepreneurs in the 21st century.  Ten years ago we had to think outside the box.  Today we need to . . .

What?  Create a new box?  Color outside the lines?  Think like we dream?

Come up with something in the comments below and maybe you and I will originate the next “box.”

Because making something new, versus using something old, is so much more interesting, so much more fun, and so much more rewarding.


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  • Bill Toscano says:

    “Launch a new possibility”
    Transition phrase: “Build a new box and think outside of that!”
    Other options:
    “create a new space”
    “think fresh thoughts”
    “scan your mind’s eye”
    “dip a new scoop”
    “stick a window in it. What do you see?”

    The one I use for the 21st century farce I write “Farce Forward”

    Ooo, here’s another: “Break open the safe”

    Thanks Ken. Thank was fun.
    I always enjoy your perspective.
    Back to submissions…

    My Best to You,

  • Jordan Mann says:

    Hmmm. I agree that the “Outside the box” phrase is overused. There are also too many destructive metaphors, breaking boundaries, shaking things up, etc. The truth is in most art forms there isn’t necessarily anything truly new, but rather we take things that have existed and redefine them, combine them with the unexpected to create something that is both familiar and challenging. So it is in this spirit that I suggest the following –

    “Ignore the instruction manual.”
    “Jailbreak the paradigm.”
    “Get jinky with the underlying metaphor.”
    “Circumvent the GPS”
    “Subject the expected to a controlled implosion.”
    “Life-hack the ordinary.”
    “Apply chainsaw and stir.”
    “WWWD? What would Warhol do?”
    “Pretend you’re Julie Taymor with a blank check from Disney.”

  • How about “Think offstage” encourages people to look beyond the main attraction and look at not only the mechanisms that are out of sight but to also explore opportunities that are ancillary to the main idea.

  • Reality Theatre Productions™ is an “innovative theatrical genre” where real people share real stories that inform, inspire and enlighten audiences.

  • phil says:

    you have great commentary– I get a zillion emails a day and usually nuke many–but there’s usually something worth while in yours-keep up the good work–pg

  • Carl says:

    look up from the phone

  • Carl says:

    Let’s turn off the satellite based auto-guidance

  • David Merrick Jr says:

    “GO, BABY, GO!!!”

  • JM says:

    I use color outside the lines often. And can we please retire “Reach out” as well?!? 🙂




  • Sarah Doudna says:

    If you’re a mouse: Forage outside the mouse hole.

    If you’re an astronomer: Extrapolate beyond the speculative hints of Big Bang nucleosynthesis.

    I feel like the commonality between them is:
    Don’t give up.

  • To give up is to die.

    Artistry is making visions real.

    The essence of youth is curiosity.

    The future is reserved for ‘rule’ breakers..

  • There’s nothing wrong with the phrase “thinking outside the box”, because it’s still a good idea. You know what’s a bad idea? Change solely for its own sake. You haven’t made a case for that change.

    Do you know why the phrase has been around so long? Because it works. It’s perfectly elegant in its simplicity, and as we see above, any replacement phrase is probably just going to be a variant of “thinking outside the box”, but with a different metaphor.

    Empty novelty is a dog that chases its own tail.

  • Rich Mc says:

    “Reveal the unfettered truth that lies within.”

  • Mike Vogel says:

    Break the fourth wall.

  • Graham Abrahams says:

    “Think Change”

  • I like to say “break through the box.”

  • David says:

    Play outside yourself.

    It retains ‘outside’ in deference to its roots…and I think takes the same sentiment but makes it more active AND personal. Plus, it is the antithesis of ‘play within yourself’ which has always bothered me (except when hilariously spoken during Richard Dresser’s Rounding Third).

  • Bobby Everett says:

    “Create Change”
    “Turn the Page”
    “Create Possibilities”
    “Blank page, What will you Create?”
    “Beyond the Light”

  • Kerry Campbell says:

    Boxes-“inside & outside”, predictable by default-how bout’ simply embracing that marvelous messy middle…

  • Casey says:

    Think Like Your Fingerprints…(Uniquely and Different From Everyone Else)

  • Kate M. Powers says:

    Instead of just “thinking outside the box” …. GET OUT OF THE BOX! Then put your creative ideas into action and change the box. With so many people sitting inside it… “thinking,” if you change the box, you can change the world! :))

  • Marc Acito says:

    It’s not new, but I like “Let’s view this from 10,000 feet” or “the bird’s eye view.” That gets the team out of the minutiae and viewing the issue with some perspective.

  • Gayla Morgan says:

    “Listen for the overtones” (Maybe too musically referent?…)

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