Categories / Inspiration

Think Outside the Box and 10 Other Idea Killers

Creative Market April 5, 2024 · 4 min read

Idea killers are everywhere. They’re those little phrases that people say when they are trying to inspire you but can’t muster together the words to describe what they mean. One day, you’ll come across one, and it just might smother your brainstorming baby with its idiomatic emptiness. To prepare you for the day when an idea killer is uttered in your presence, here’s an explanation of the good intentions behind each of these killers and the assumptions they impose, so you can look past the cliché.

1) Connect the Dots

Good Intention: Pay attention to what is connecting your ideas and plans.

Clichéd Assumption: The answer is simple.

Next time someone says this to you, don’t think about completing the picture in a children’s workbook. It’s frustrating when someone else can see the end goal, and you’re missing some crucial connection. Instead, think about the inter-connectivity of all things.


2) Think Outside the Box

Good Intention: Don’t let what is normal hold you back.

Clichéd Assumption: A lack of ingenious thought.

This slogan should have gone as soon as Taco Bell commandeered it for “Think Outside the Bun,” but it still plagues motivational materials everywhere.


3) Get Those Creative Juices Flowing

Good Intention: Energetic and lively creative states can bring about some of the most fruitful work.

Clichéd Assumption: Laziness.

This idea killer is usually followed by some lame exercise to get people on their feet and moving. Cut the crap and get down to it. Creativity is a state of mind and can be cultivated in any setting.


4) Open Your Mind

Good Intention: Try to put yourself in a different mindset. Think as a different person.

Clichéd Assumption: The idea seems narrow-minded.

Another phrase that overuse has dulled to a bland slogan. Allowing your mind to experience new concepts is a beautiful aspect of humanity; don’t let it be captured by this idiotic catchphrase.


5) Have Fun With It

Good Intention: The passion and drive that let you enjoy your work will lead to better results.

Clichéd Assumption: Seriousness will get you nothing.

This is an extremely pervasive idea killer because the moment someone tells you to have fun is the moment all fun ceases. So just relax and create the way you do. Having fun with work is what gives it a life of its own, but you must back that joy by a serious commitment to make the best work possible.


6) Let’s Take It to the Next Level

Good Intention: The first step is taken care of, now think of the next.

Clichéd Assumption: It’s all just a predetermined game.

Next level is an awful buzz phrase that should stay in the gaming community where it belongs. If you hear it, remember there’s no CPU boss waiting to crush you at the end.


7) Go Big or Go Home

Good Intention: Let the idea reign supreme, don’t try to confine it.

Clichéd Assumption: Thinking too small.

The only people who say this are in a Mountain Dew-driven state after staying up late marathoning the last decade of X-Games. Just remember that ideas come in all shapes and sizes, broheim.


8) Let It Come to You

Good Intention: Your subconscious continues working long after you’ve forgotten your work.

Clichéd Assumption: Active thinking is overrated.

Sometimes it doesn’t. Meditation and relaxation are great for clearing out the clutter that can block an idea from presenting itself, but active brainstorming and contemplation are really where ideas turn into game changers.


9) The Answer’s Right in Front of You

Good Intention: Look back over everything you have and make sure you aren’t over-complicating the solution.

Clichéd Assumption: Lack of scrutiny.

Thank you, Captain Obvious. It doesn’t have to mean you missed the answer; it just means you may have already found it, and the work is done.


10) Go Back to Basics

Good Intention: A reflection on the most fundamental principles can answer new problems.

Clichéd Assumption: The designer is missing something simplistic.

The textbook meaningless solution. Yes, on occasion stripping down an idea to its most basic elements illuminates some glanced-over novelty, but it’s rare.


11) Think Different

Good Intention: If we keep thinking the same way we’ve been doing up to this point, we’ll come up with nothing new.

Clichéd Assumption: Your thought process is common and unoriginal.


Thinking about the intention behind these idea killers helps lessen the impact on the creative process, but remember, it’s always better to explain than to use a cliché. Keep these out of your brainstorming sessions so you don’t freeze up the creative flow you have going.

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