9 Professional Synonyms for “Think Outside the Box”

Being able to think outside the box is a real talent. It’s something employers look for, so it’s worth mentioning whenever you can.

Therefore, you should learn professional alternatives to “think outside the box.” It’ll help to keep your writing fresh and interesting.

This article has gathered some synonyms to show you a different way to say “think outside the box.”

Is It Professional to Say “Think Outside the Box”?

It is professional to say “think outside the box.” It’s a common formal choice when explaining that you don’t think like other people.

We recommend using it when trying to sell yourself on a resume or CV. It shows you’re willing to come up with unconventional ideas that others may completely miss.

This example will show you how it works:

I tend to think outside the box to help with my solutions. It ensures I’m the only one thinking about the bigger picture.


  • It’s a creative way to say you think differently to others.
  • It’s professional and works well as a resume buzzword.


  • It’s overused when expressing creative ideas.
  • Some consider it a bland way to show you “think outside the box,” considering the phrase is used so often and is no longer original.

Clearly, “think outside the box” is one of the best phrases to use in your formal writing. However, it’s not the only one. We recommend exploring some alternatives to keep things interesting.

Keep reading to learn phrases for thinking outside the box. You can also review the examples under each heading to learn more.

What to Say Instead of “Think Outside the Box”

  • Think creatively
  • Go off the beaten track
  • Come up with original ideas
  • Break the status quo
  • Be unconventional
  • Throw out the rule book
  • Make my own rules
  • Defy convention
  • See the bigger picture

1. Think Creatively

There’s nothing wrong with idioms like “think outside the box.” But that doesn’t mean you have to stick with an idiom in your alternatives.

Instead, you can use “think creatively.” It’s a simple phrase that encourages someone to think independently. It allows them to come up with original ideas and develop them.

For instance, you can use it when asking an employee to solve a problem. It shows you’re looking for a more creative outcome and want to see what they can offer you.

Check out this sample email to see how it works:

Dear Katie,

I need you to think creatively about the solution here. It’s important that you come up with an unconventional solution.

Maria Kingsley

2. Go Off the Beaten Track

“Go off the beaten track” works well to describe a person who thinks outside the box. It’s a similar idiom that shows that someone looks for creative solutions.

We recommend using it in an email to coworkers. It shows you’re willing to let them explore a more creative solution if they can think of something.

It’s a respectful way to encourage someone to be different. After all, there’s nothing wrong with coming up with more original ideas in the workplace (as long as they’re correct).

Also, this email example will help you with it:

Dear Hazel,

You need to go off the beaten track. The only way to beat our competitors is to show them we’re ready to play their game, after all.

All the best,
Harvey Specter

3. Come Up With Original Ideas

A professional way to say “think outside the box” is “come up with original ideas.” It’s a good choice if you think creatively and develop ideas.

If you find that you frequently come up with solutions that others miss, this might apply to you.

It’s good to include this in a formal job application. For instance, it could be a good way to sell yourself when writing your resume.

Employers prefer people willing to explore different methods when completing their work. So, this is a good way to make yourself appear as desirable as possible.

If you’re still confused, here are some cover letter samples to help you:

I come up with original ideas whenever possible. This allows me to think on my feet and provide interesting solutions.

I come up with original ideas in the workplace. It’s why my employers depend on me so much to get the job done.

4. Break the Status Quo

Go against the grain! Mix things up! Think in a way that others might not dare to!

There’s nothing wrong with being different and trying to be as creative as possible.

“Break the status quo” allows you to demonstrate your creative ideas. It’s great to include when filling out your resume.

Job applications are much more interesting when you include phrases like this.

It lets employers know you don’t think like others and test yourself to solve problems. These are great qualities that employers enjoy seeing in their employees.

These resume examples should also clear things up:

I like to break the status quo at work. It generally helps me to stay engaged and test myself to think in unconventional ways.

I’m able to break the status quo that others aren’t willing to try. It’s an excellent way for me to explore my talents.

5. Be Unconventional

You may ask someone to “be unconventional” in a formal email. It’s a great alternative to “think outside the box” that shows you’re open to interesting ideas.

Feel free to include “be unconventional” in your next business email to an employee. It’s an encouraging phrase that lets people explore their more creative natures.

Check out the following email example if you’re still stuck:

Dear Adam,

I would also like you to be unconventional with your solution. You have what it takes to solve this for me.

Thank you so much,
Duncan Bradley

6. Throw Out the Rule Book

Providing you don’t go overboard, there’s nothing wrong with breaking a few rules. Sometimes, rules only limit our potential. Therefore, you can “throw out the rule book” to explore interesting solutions.

“Throw out the rule book” is synonymous with “think outside the box” here. It shows you’re willing to break new ground and find ways to solve problems that others can’t.

Try using it in an email to employees. It’s enough encouragement to get them to be a bit more creative and ignore the rules already established.

This sample email should clear some things up if you’re still unsure:

Dear Ms. Kingston,

I know you don’t like it, but I’m still going to throw out the rule book here. It’s certainly a better way for me to get to an appropriate solution.

Scott Roderick

7. Make My Own Rules

One of the best ways to spice up your resume is with “make my own rules.” It shows you push yourself and challenge what’s possible.

Of course, breaking the rules isn’t always the best practice in a workplace. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t phrase it in a way that shows you think outside the box.

Employers should respond well to a phrase like this. If you can show that you’re a good problem solver, then this phrase is worth including.

You should also review these resume examples:

I make my own rules to get results. It also turns out that I get some of the best results in my firm.

I make my own rules, and that allows me to test myself. As a result, I’m only engaged when I know I’m getting the best out of my work.

8. Defy Convention

You can use “defy convention” as another way to say “think outside the box.”

It’s useful when writing a cover letter because it shows you go against any normal ways of thinking.

Sometimes, employees can be stuck in single-minded solutions. They won’t often push themselves to figure out new answers because they’re worried they might be wrong.

If you constantly defy convention, it means you’re open to exploring new ideas. This shows employers that you’re keen to test yourself.

Perhaps these examples will also help you:

I tend to defy convention when given a task to complete. It generally allows me to put my own stamp on my work.

I defy convention because I don’t want to recycle ideas others have used. It keeps my employers on their toes.

9. See the Bigger Picture

One final idiom we want to discuss is “see the bigger picture.” It’s a great formal alternative to “think outside the box” that keeps things interesting in your emails.

You can tell a client to “see the bigger picture.” It shows you want them to think about alternative solutions they might not have considered at first.

This is a great way to encourage recipients to explore their options. You won’t know what they’re capable of until you ask!

This email example will also help you understand it:

Dear Mr. Samsonov,

I still want you to see the bigger picture here. You could be doing so much more, and I want you to find the best solution.

My best,
Darren Martens