Created By: KJMackley on September 10, 2011

Thinking Outside The Box

The Solution is to Break Your Paradigm

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The characters are caught at a wall, the enemy is too smart/strong/numerous or any number of things that prevents them from continuing forward. The problem is only solvable when they stop thinking along their normal mindset and start thinking outside the box.

Note that this isn't doing something crazy or unexpected and it works because it is crazy or unexpected, see Crazy Awesome for characters that do that on a regular basis. This is specifically about breaking away what is considered the proper way to do things and finding an unexpected solution.

  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the Grand Finale has Buffy contemplating the fact that the enemy has an actual army at their disposal and she is a lone slayer. Realizing she is a lone slayer, she starts to question why it has to be like that and thus decides to eliminate The Chosen One rule and make all potential Slayers full Slayers.
  • In Attack of the Clones, Obi-Wan is perplexed over tracing an item to a planet that his friend recognized but was not in the Jedi archives, which is a supposedly fully comprehensive database. Asking Yoda about it the question is brought before a group of Jedi children, with one suggesting the information was deleted from the Jedi records. Since only a Jedi could have had access to the archives the possibility of internal tampering did not occur to the older Jedi.
Community Feedback Replies: 12
  • September 11, 2011
    • In Avatar The Last Airbender, in order to save Katara and Sokka from being completely encased in crystal, King Bumi gave Aang three challenges. Each challenge had a solution that wasn't straightforward. The lesson was about thinking outside the box and "opening your brain to the possibilities."
  • September 11, 2011
    Loadscreen: "Think outside the box. The most obvious solution isn't always the best."
  • September 11, 2011
    I believe this is Cutting The Knot.
  • September 11, 2011
    Certainly related, but Cutting The Knot is about solving a puzzle using violence or brutish tactics. To illustrate, the trope namer is about a puzzle of untangling a knot and "solving it" by cutting it with a sword. It wasn't so much "Thinking Outside the Box" as being impatient.

    Another example, in Power Rangers In Space the team was forced to fight against the extremely dangerous Psycho Rangers and could not figure out any way to overpower them. An episode was dedicated to T.J. devising new strategies to use against them such as switching up opponents and when that failed to work properly they unified their colors so the Psycho Rangers didn't know who was who.
  • September 11, 2011
    ^ The box is the confines of the challenge as presented. Thinking inside the box would be trying to untie the Gordion knot, thinking outside of it is realizing that all that was asked of Alexander was the undo it.

    The example of the knot would qualify for both Cutting The Knot and this YKTTW. Conceptually, Cutting The Knot could be a subtrope of Thinking Outside The Box, though in the end, they would look somewhat similar.
  • September 12, 2011
    Isn't this Take A Third Option?
  • September 12, 2011
    To this troper, Takea Third Option is more: "These are the options I'm given, but I don't like them, so I'm breaking the rules and making my own."

    This seems more like the characters are backed into a corner with no options, and thus must think differently (ie, like the enemy or like the unorthodox Anti Villain) to save their own skins.
  • July 1, 2012
  • July 3, 2012
    • In the last case of Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney: Justice for All, Phoenix is faced with these options: Let his defendant, who is clearly guilty, to go free, thus putting the guilty verdict to an innocent witness, or to declare the defendant guilty, in which [his] friend will be killed by an assassin the defendant had hired earlier. The solution? Break the contract between the assassin and the defendant by proving that the defendant was going to blackmail the assassin.
  • July 3, 2012
    In The Big Bang Theory Leonard started dating Priya, a lawyer who was able to poke holes in the Roommate Agreement that largely benefited Sheldon. Sheldon grew frustrated that he couldn't outmaneuver a lawyer, but was later encouraged by Amy to do some cheap tactics instead of fighting her in her field. Thus Sheldon took inspiration from Captain Kirk and set a self-destruct countdown unless Leonard signed a less-exploitable contract (via sending an e-mail to Priya's parents regarding their relationship, who would disapprove of her dating a white guy).
  • July 17, 2012
    Live-Action TV:
    • In the 1980s Twilight Zone series, the episode "Eye of Newton" has a frustrated mathematics professor inadvertently summons the Devil, saying he'd sell his soul to solve a particularly difficult equation. The Devil appears and offers to relinquish his claim (cancelling the "deal") if the professor can set him an impossible task after asking him three questions. After the questions are answered, the professor tells the Devil to "Get lost." Since Satan had been bragging that he knows every place in the Universe intimately, the professor knew the Devil couldn't ever be lost. Oh, and the prof goes back to working on the equation himself.
  • July 17, 2012
    A staple move of Captain James T Kirk. In Starfleet academy, faced with an unwinnable simulation (designed to test how cadets deal with defeat), Kirk hacked the program. And when faced with an apparently invincible enemy in "The Corbomite Maneuver", Kirk realised that poker was a more useful analogy to their situation than chess, as Spock had been thinking.