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On ''Thinking outside the box''

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Is this slogan actualy an attempt to remove conceptualisation from understanding?

I'd say it is, indirectly. It's an attempt to establish unconventional thinking as such as a value, and, by implication, standard methods of thinking as valueless. As far as its attempt to remove conceptualization from understanding goes, the mindset seems to be, "Don't worry about how effective an idea is, just worry about how novel it is." All in all, a worthless expression.

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I'd say it can also just mean 'forget your conventional standards of thinking'. The show Mad Men has a brilliant example of this. The ad-men are all sitting around in a meeting, trying to come up with slogans for a new spray deodorant (this is back when spray was new). They come up with lame ideas about it being 'space age' and having some guy in a space suit advertising it. In contrast, one of them whips out some magazine, which has an advert for the VW Beetle - I'm not talking about the slightly cooler ones of today, I'm talking the tinny ones, back at a time when NO ONE was doing stuff like this with cars.


This advert is one of those examples of brilliance in advertising. People looked at the car and said 'This is a complete... lemon!', and the ad guys for it, rather than say, 'No, think of the fuel efficiency... and the durability of the vehicle', just ran with it and said, "Ok. It's a lemon. Oh, a lemon crafted with expert precision and brilliant safety standards." It's about taking something distinctly out of step and running with it.

Edited by Tenure
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I think the phrase is related to this puzzle:


I suppose it's possible that the phrase has taken on some anti-conceptual elements in modern usage -- I don't have any opinion on that -- but it appears the original meaning is merely to look beyond the obvious or conventional for solutions.

I believe Ayn Rand actually used the phrase in her lectures on (and subsequent books on) fiction writing. (Or non-fiction... I forget which). I remember being surprised seeing that phrase by her, as I had assumed it was newer.

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