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Or Soar in Restricted Airspace. Or Samba in Salt Lake. Or ANYTHING but “Think Outside the Box" (TOTB).

How did a phrase that quite literally means, “think unconventionally,” become such a tired, hackneyed cliché? In an age where memes and idol mimicry run rampant, emulation is to be expected. But while shuttershades and FHRITP (Google it, laugh, NSFW) are the expected hallmarks of impressionable youths, TOTB is a staple in the lexicon of middle managers and decorated professionals alike. (That or “lateral thinking,” which is about as snooty as a show pony sporting an ascot.)

The American business vernacular, molded by our collective environment, has become stale. Even our expressions to describe being creative are no better than canned Spam, so it’s no surprise that conformity has permeated every facet of office speak. Just keep a running count of how often you’ll hear the phrases “move the needle,” or, “let’s circle back” uttered. “Brainstorming” escapes my ire because it’s so well-weighted, but every once in a while I’d like to indulge in a spaghetti session (ya know, seeing what sticks). Water cooler talk shouldn’t taste tepid, and Vishnu help those who are trying to convince prospective clients of their imagination’s merits while using recycled sayings.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with TOTB, but we can do better. This isn’t a rant so much as a call to arms. We can LIBERATE creativity! We, with our fancy inkwell pens and perceptive processing, should strive to give creative thinking a more colorful future. We’re all Sarah McLachlan. We’re flush with ideas on how to improve the bidet, but those of us who lust over language are lamenting the lack of panache found in everyday interactions. Express thyself, craft your own idiom, and escape the samespeak.

Punch a unicorn in the face, so the children may know a better future.

~ Chase Cambria, Jr. Copywriter, The S3 Agency


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