ne morning I was listening to a podcast advising businesses how they should be using Pinterest. I was hastily making notes from the 49 minute long consult, scribbling down key points from Jeff Sieh, a Pinterest guru, when I stopped and looked at what I had just copied down…

“Think outside the box”

Jeff Sieh, a social media consultant, was advising listeners to “think outside the box” when they’re creating new content. I stared at my notes and paused to listen further – was Jeff going to elaborate? I absent-mindedly started to doodle a stick man banging on the outside of a box; clearly I’m not one to hide my subconscious thoughts. I couldn’t shake Jeff’s advice – when was I ever trapped inside a box? What does “thinking outside the box” actually mean?

I started to research around this buzz phrase and came across a response from Sir Richard Branson:

“You will never have to think outside the box if you never let anyone build one around you.”

So far I had learnt not to let this big, bad box build its four metaphorical walls around me; I must be innovative in my creative content creation. I understood all of this, but I still felt a little lost. What does Pinterest (and other social media platforms) actually want from me; other than to arrive with shiny new content that isn’t packaged in a box?

I continued with the Podcast and my note taking, waiting for a clear answer. I picked up lots of ground breaking tips – such as using vertical imagery, “behind the scenes” boards work well and you can pin a YouTube video for better Google rankings. I took a detour to Pinterest to have a look at its offerings; I soon felt incredibly unqualified to be deciding what should be pinned or favoured – how do I tell the difference between what’s been created whilst inside a box or cooked up outside of one?

Finally Jeff said something which made me pause again:

“People won’t pin crappy pins”…. No, not that, but the obvious statement made me chuckle!

Jeff stated:

“Don’t be afraid of doing something that others in your industry aren’t doing. Don’t fear being different. Be a leader, don’t follow one.”

At this point I was beginning to “get” Jeff, but I went back and looked at my doodled box and stickman. I need to be a creative leader, leading “outside the box”. Why did that phrase still frustrate me? Well for a start it’s over-used; it comes from an experiment conducted in 1945, and it’s lost any meaning it once had. The expression has become an office buzz phrase and nothing more. Who has been advised to “think outside the box” and happily skipped off with new ideas spilling out their ears?

So let’s forget this out-dated saying and dismantle this elusive box. Whether we’re creating content for Pinterest, LinkedIn or a new bumper sticker.

Let’s not allow ourselves to be restricted; not by our own limits, not by others and not by a box!
Let’s start thinking as leaders, with crown and sceptre.

How do you feel when you hear the phrase, “think outside the box”?