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The Professional Frustrations, Wonder, and Value of Outside-the-Box Thinkers: Career Coach Tips

Being an outside-the-box (OTB) thinker myself, I struggled for years in my career butting up against the resistance and lack of receptiveness I'd often got from colleagues, managers, and the overall organizational culture when my ideas were dismissed or misunderstood in favor for an iteration of the old ways of operating.

A beautiful mountain and sea landscape, and a hand holding up a white picture frame in front of it
See how much of this gorgeous landscape is missed if we tried to put just one small section of it into a box?

Granted, I worked in a highly conservative industry and, years ago, didn't have the self-awareness to recognize that I just didn't fit into the "this is how we've always done it" mentality that prevails there.

Fast forward several years into my career, my own level of self awareness has grown, as has my toolkit as a career coach along with the understanding of how imperative it is to embrace our behavioral style and find professional environments where we can unleash our full potential and make the kind of impact through our work that makes us feel truly alive.

What is "Outside-the-Box" (OTB) Thinking?

"Outside-the-box" thinking refers to a mindset or approach that goes beyond conventional or traditional ways of thinking. It involves breaking free from established norms, assumptions, and limitations to explore new possibilities, perspectives, and solutions. The term is often used to describe individuals who approach problems, challenges, and opportunities in innovative, creative, and unconventional ways.

These creative powerhouses tend to question existing practices, challenge assumptions, and explore alternative approaches. They look beyond the obvious solutions and consider different angles, perspectives, and ideas that may not be initially apparent to others... Even their leadership.

Drawing inspiration from unrelated fields and stepping outside the confines of established frameworks, OTB thinkers uncover new insights as they are able to easily make connections across disparate ideas and generate innovative solutions. They are astute at incorporating diverse perspectives and leverage their creativity to find novel approaches that lead to breakthroughs and opportunities.

OTB thinkers are highly valuable assets to organizations that are looking to disrupt the status quo and truly take a modern approach to keep up with the changing landscape. But only if they truly embrace the talents and unconventionalism (is that a word?) that comes with creative thinkers.

And there's the rub. Because being an OTB thinker comes with heaping ladle full of frustration if they are not valued and appreciated for the way their minds work.

As a career coach, I hear these frustrations over and over again in my Discovery Calls with amazing professionals who are seeking validation and a way out of their career disenchantment.

And I can relate to all of these, as they were my own frustrations as well before I found the space that is right for me professionally.

Let's see which ones are true for you...

5 Frustrations that Come with Being an Outside-the-Box (OTB) Thinker

In many traditional work environments, there is a strong preference for conformity, established processes, and maintaining the status quo even when they claim this is not the case.

If you're an OTB thinker like me, you might relate to some of these specific frustrations experienced by other professionals just like us. They include:

1. Lack of Supportive Environment:

OTB thinkers often struggle to find a supportive environment where their ideas are valued and encouraged. They may face skepticism or dismissal from colleagues and leaders who prefer more conventional approaches. This can lead to frustration and a feeling of being misunderstood.

2. Resistance to Change:

Organizations that resist change can stifle the creativity and innovative thinking of OTB professionals. When new ideas are met with resistance, it can be discouraging and demotivating, leading to a reluctance to share ideas or a sense of being undervalued.

3. Limited Opportunities for Growth:

OTB thinkers may feel constrained in their professional growth within traditional career paths. The focus on following established procedures and hierarchies can limit their ability to explore new avenues, take risks, and showcase their full potential because they feel they have to put themselves into some sort of a box in order to be successful (which is a misconception.).

4. Difficulty in Collaborative Settings:

OTB thinkers often excel when given the freedom to work independently or in small, diverse teams. However, in highly structured and rigid environments, collaboration can become challenging. Their unconventional ideas may clash with the group's mindset, leading to friction and difficulties in finding common ground.

5. Feeling Underutilized:

OTB thinkers thrive when they can utilize their creativity and problem-solving skills to their fullest extent. When their talents are underutilized or they are assigned repetitive and mundane tasks, they can feel unfulfilled and unchallenged, which ultimately affects their motivation and job satisfaction.

If you're reading this and thinking that you relate to some or all of these frustrations, it's important for you to be aware of a few things.

First and foremost, you have to ask yourself whether you're in an environment that is equipped to truly embrace someone like you. If your answer is "yes," or even if it's "maybe," then perhaps it's time to have a heart-heart with your leader to advocate for yourself and the bigger impact you can be making through your work. And if your answer is "no," then its time to proactively make a game plan for your future.

Us creative OTB thinkers carry around a myriad of advantages with us every day. They are magic... Nay, wonders. Here are six of them.

6 Wonders of Being an Outside-the-Box (OTB) Thinker

The most wonderful thing about being an OTB thinker at work is our potential for limitless creativity, innovation, and the ability to make a significant impact. I mean, doesn't just reading this sentence make you feel good?! It does to me. There's nothing quite like seeing it on paper like this that gives me a jolt of the "hell yea's!"

So let's break this down and touch on just six of the oh-so-many reasons why being an OTB thinker is truly wonderful:

1. Unique Perspectives:

OTB thinkers bring fresh perspectives to the table. We see problems from different angles, challenge assumptions, and offer unique insights that others might miss. Our ability to think outside the box enables us to find innovative solutions and approach situations with creativity and resourcefulness.

2. Innovation and Problem-Solving:

OTB thinkers are natural innovators. We thrive on finding new ways of doing things and are not afraid to take calculated risks. Our ability to think creatively and come up with unconventional solutions can lead to breakthroughs, process improvements, and transformative changes within an organization and for the people we serve.

3. Continuous Learning and Growth:

OTB thinkers have a natural curiosity and thirst for knowledge. We are constantly seeking new ideas, exploring different domains, and pushing the boundaries of our own understanding. This dedication to learning and growth not only benefits us personally but also brings fresh insights and perspectives to our work.

4. Inspiring Change and Influence:

OTB thinkers have the potential to inspire change within our organizations. By challenging the status quo, presenting new ideas, and pushing for innovation, we can positively influence the direction and culture of the workplace. Our enthusiasm and passion for making a difference can inspire others to think creatively and embrace a more open mindset.

5. Fulfillment and Job Satisfaction:

Being able to express our creativity and contribute innovative ideas gives OTB thinkers a sense of fulfillment and job satisfaction. We find joy in pushing boundaries, solving complex problems, and making a tangible impact through our work. This fulfillment enhances our motivation, engagement, and overall well-being.

6. Adaptability and Resilience:

OTB thinkers are often adaptable and resilient individuals. We embrace change, navigate uncertainty, and find opportunities amidst challenges. Our ability to think creatively allows us to adapt quickly to new situations and find innovative solutions, making us valuable assets in times of change or adversity.

If your employer knew how to embrace and foster your outside-the-box thinking, you could play an essential role in shifting the organization into a more dynamic, innovative, and successful one.

Wouldn't that feel wonderful?

Unfortunately, not all leaders know how to look for the strengths of their team members. And if you wait around for them to come to the conclusion on their own, you could prolong the state of misery you're living in.

I know "misery" is a big word, but if you're stuck in a situation where you're constantly feeling stifled and misunderstood, what better word is there other than "misery" to describe it?

Instead of prolonging that misery, take a more proactive approach and assert your value... That is, if you think there is an opportunity to do so.

Whether there is a possibility that you could have a heart-to-heart with your leader and better tap into your innate talents where you are working right now, or if you think it's time for you to move on and find a new career opportunity, then read on.

Because, next, I'm going to give you seven reasons you could share with your leadership about why they are lucky to have someone like you on their team, and how you can help drive extraordinary results.

7 Reasons Why Employers Want to Hire and Retain OTB Thinkers

Note to reader: I turned this section into a little activity. So, if you want to follow along and complete the exercise, grab a pen and paper or your favorite note-taking app and let's dive in.

Employers have several reasons for wanting OTB thinkers on the team and you want to have these at the ready when you're making your compelling case.

Here are some key commonalities among OTBers that make us highly valuable assets to employers, to our team mates, and to the people we serve.

As you read through them, I encourage you to meditate on how these are true for you, write notes, and find examples of your previous successes that validate each of these points. This will help you prepare to have a meaningful conversation with your employer so they can see you in a new light.

1. Innovation and Creativity:

OTB thinkers like you bring fresh perspectives and a unique approach to problem-solving. Your ability to think creatively and generate innovative ideas can lead to breakthrough solutions, new products or services, and competitive advantages for the organization.

2. Adaptability and Agility:

In today's rapidly changing business landscape, employers value employees who can adapt quickly to new situations and think on their feet. OTB thinkers are often flexible, open-minded, and able to navigate uncertainty with ease. If this is true for you, then you are more likely to embrace change and find creative solutions in dynamic environments.

3. Competitive Edge:

OTB thinkers gives employers a competitive edge in the market. These professionals can help organizations stand out from their competitors by introducing novel ideas, identifying emerging trends, and driving innovation. If this is true for you, then your ability to think outside the box can lead to disruptive changes that position the company as a leader in the industry.

4. Problem-Solving Skills:

OTB thinkers excel in problem-solving and solution finding. You look at things from unconventional angles, consider alternative solutions, and find creative ways to overcome obstacles. Your ability to think critically and identify unique opportunities allows you to tackle complex problems with efficiency and effectiveness.

5. Growth and Adaptation:

Companies that foster a culture of OTB thinking are more likely to thrive in a rapidly evolving business landscape. Employers recognize that by hiring individuals who possess this mindset, they can foster a culture of innovation, continuous improvement, and adaptability within their organization. How can you best contribute with your skills, experience, and thinking style?

6. Collaboration and Team Dynamics:

OTB thinkers often bring a collaborative and inclusive approach to teamwork. Your ability to think differently can inspire and energize team members, leading to enhanced collaboration, better decision-making, and increased productivity. You can also contribute diverse perspectives that lead to more comprehensive and well-rounded outcomes.

7. Future Readiness:

With the rapid advancement of technology and the evolving nature of work, employers seek out employees who can anticipate future trends and adapt to changing circumstances. OTB thinkers are often forward-looking and have a natural inclination to explore new ideas and possibilities, making you a valuable asset in navigating future challenges.


Your ability to innovate, solve complex problems, adapt to change, and contribute to a dynamic and collaborative work environment makes you highly valuable in today's competitive business landscape.

Why? Because we are in a huge state of flux right now, and employers are clamoring for ways to stay relevant in this changing landscape.

That's where you come in.

Employers who value innovation, business acumen, problem-solving, and strategic planning are looking for someone just like you. Your eye for continuous improvement, your adaptability, and your creativity drives progress, enabling your colleagues, teams, and the organization to achieve extraordinary outcomes.

So, my friend, embrace your OTB thinking and the immense value you bring to the professional table. Remind yourself of the talents you yourself might be taking for granted, because they're inherent "givens" to who you are, which makes them easy for us to miss and sweep aside. They live inside of you. Find them, polish them off, and shine a light on them so the world can see their luminous sparkle.

Continue exploring uncharted territories, challenge conventional wisdom, and discover new possibilities. The world is your oyster, and the world needs people like you to move us to a better place.

You just have to find a space that knows how to leverage your strengths and style. And if you need help putting your finger on what looks like for you, without working yourself into a box, I'm here for you.

Shine on, with big love from your career coach,



Career Coach Griz smiling at you

Grisel Scarantino, MA, ODPC is a Career Success Optimizer. She helps caring, big-picture thinkers grow their work-life fulfillment. Grisel is a coach, consultant, speaker, author, home chef, enjoyer of life, Bigfoot enthusiast, and lover of funny dog videos. If you want to fall back in love with your career path, grow your success, and better enjoy the life that you're working so hard to support, visit her website at and schedule your complimentary call with Grisel today.

For daily tips and informative content, connect with Grisel on LinkedIn.


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