TEACHING INNOVATIVE PROBLEM SOLVING: A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO INCREASING STUDENTS’ ‘OUT OF THE BOX’ THINKING

TEACHING INNOVATIVE PROBLEM SOLVINGTEACHING INNOVATIVE PROBLEM SOLVING: A
PRACTICAL GUIDE TO INCREASING STUDENTS’ ‘OUT OF
THE BOX’ THINKING

Charles J.F. Leflar, PhD., CPA
Clinical Professor of Accounting
Walton College of Business
University of Arkansas
Fayetteville, Arkansas
cleflar@uark.edu
Katie L. Terrell, MBA
Adjunct Professor of Accounting
Walton College of Business
University of Arkansas
Fayetteville, Arkansas
klterrel@uark.edu

 

Abstract

 
This paper presents a practical approach to teaching students to ‘Think Outside the Box.’
Defining a mental box as having the four constructs of Curiosity, Openness, Risk and Energy,
the paper describes how these can be measured and then expanded using a series of assignments
designed to increase each of the constructs. Examples of some of the assignments are given with
explanations.

 
“Capital isn’t so important in business. Experience isn’t so important. You can get both these
things. What is important is ideas. If you have ideas, you have the main asset you need, and
there isn’t any limit to what you can do with your business and your life.” Harvey Firestone

 

INTRODUCTION

 
In problem solving, we are constrained by the solutions we consider. One of the goals of
both an undergraduate and a graduate business education is to train students to solve business
problems. The AACSB requires “…critical thinking and analytical skills…” as well as
“Business processes and analysis…” as curriculum content areas for accredited business
schools.1 So it stands to reason that training students to consider more solutions should make
them better problem solvers.

 
Students are often encouraged to ‘think outside of the box’ but it is rare that they are
given any practical training on how to do so. Perhaps that is because said ‘box’ is never defined,
the phrase then becomes only a fuzzy encouragement to somehow learn to think differently. The
authors are not convinced that such vague suggestions have much practical value in the business
world, we believe that an approach offering more specific instruction in how to accomplish this
would be beneficial. This paper presents how to use the CORE framework2 to define, measure,
and increase the size of students’ mental boxes, thus teaching them how to ‘think outside the
box.’

 

TEACHING INNOVATIVE PROBLEM SOLVING: A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO INCREASING STUDENTS’ ‘OUT OF THE BOX’ THINKING

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