outside the box
Probably from the need to draw lines outside the perimeter of the nine dots in the "nine dots" puzzle.
- (idiomatic) Beyond the bounds of convention.
- Synonyms: laterally, out of the box, outside of the box
The boss wants some new ideas—it's time to think outside the box.
1971 September 1, Michael R. Notaro, Jr., “Management of Personnel: Organization Patterns and Techniques”, in Data Management, volume 9, number 9, page 77:
- "THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX". If you have kept your thinking process operating inside the lines and boxes, then you are normal and average, for that is the way your thinking has been programmed. ... Here are nine dots: If you were asked to pick up a pencil and try to touch every dot using four straight lines only, you would try it this way first. It would be incorrect. That's because this configuration is in the shape of a box and we are conditioned to think this way.
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