think outside the box


Senior Member

I came across such a sentence:

PCs and the Internet are empowering young people to learn, communicate and think outside the box.

At first, I thought "the box" might refer to a PC or the interface of Internet. So I guessed the meaning of the phrase in the above context was to think over problems of the world through the use of PCs and the Internet.

But later I found another article referring to this phrase as well. It says
that, to "think outside the box" is to try new ways to solve a problem. That can also be rephrased as be creative in thinking.

However, when I consulted the dictionaries, there is no such a phrase explained or listed.

So now I want your confirmation. Is this phrase a new phenomenon? In dictionaries, under the entry of "box", it is said that "box" sometimes can refer to "the TV set". Can "box" also extend to mean "the PC"?

Thank you in advance.
  • Randisi.

    Senior Member
    American English; USA
    Yes, 'to think outside the box' means to think in new, creative ways. The box can be seen as all the old ways of thinking.

    As I understand it, the phrase derives from a puzzle where you are given a set of dots arranged in a square (or box), and you have to draw a certain number of lines through all the dots. To do so, you must extend them beyond the 'box', which requires creative thinking. Most people try to draw the lines solely within the 'box'.

    It has been around for at least twenty years (in the US).


    Senior Member
    Thank you. I see. But still a little puzzled by what kind of "puzzle" there is related to a drawing of a box? Is it called a black box? Or magic square ?
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