Jootsing – how to generate ideas that are truly ‘outside the box’

Anyone is capable of finding creative solutions. The key is escaping the rules of the system. But to work around the rules, it helps to know why those rules are there in the first place. This is what Jootsing is all about. Jootsing is a clever method of finding outside the box ideas by studying the system.

The mystery of creativity

What makes some people so incredibly creative? How do those we label ‘creative geniuses’ find their unusual insights? Is it something they’re born with? Well… partially. Sure, some people seem to have slightly more talent when it comes to creative thinking, but mostly, creative thinking is a skill. A skill that can be learnt and a skill that, with some practice, can be improved.

You could compare creative thinking to riding a bicycle. Winning the Tour de France will certainly be out of reach for most of us, no matter how much we train. But pretty much anyone can learn how to ride a bicycle. And every time you ride your bicycle, it becomes a little bit easier. Learning how to think creatively is similar, but instead of training wheels, you use creative thinking techniques.

Creativity is breaking free from fixed thinking patterns. And this can be done systematically. For instance, by ‘jumping out of the system’ using the Jootsing method.

The system

The majority of the time, we hardly think at all. Our brain is usually on autopilot. Thinking is hard and takes time. To be able to make fast decisions on a daily basis, we unconsciously use fixed patterns. We use past experiences and known rules to act swiftly.

Our autopilot brain makes us very efficient. Most efficient are people with experience; the experts. Any field of expertise has its own rules. Stuff that works. Experts know exactly what works and what doesn’t. While this is absolutely amazing most of the times, it can also be a weakness. When you’re looking for creative solutions, you’ll have to look outside the system you know so well. The system you’ve learnt to trust. To find original insights you’ll have to explore the unbeaten path.

Consciously breaking the rules

Anyone who doesn’t know the system can accidentally come up with a brilliant idea. After all, this person doesn’t know the ‘rules’. This is why you shouldn’t hesitate to include outsiders in your creative sessions. Their ideas might seem naïve at times, but they are often extremely original. The unusual perspective of the outsiders might even make the ‘insiders’ consider different approaches.

The more ideas the outsiders share, the bigger the chances of stumbling upon something brilliant. While many of the proposed solutions will be practically impossible, once in a while the outsiders will surprise even the experts with a breathtakingly creative suggestion that might just work. Still, you can’t depend on outsiders alone. They might stumble upon something that works, but it’s just as likely that they will not. To find creative solutions to tricky problems consistently, you have to use a more systematic approach. And to do this, it is essential you first understand the system in which you operate. You’ll have to do some Jootsing.


Jootsing is a term coined by Douglas Hofstadter, a Distinguished Professor at Indiana University. Jootsing stands for Jumping Out Of The System. Jootsing is basically an advanced version of the thinking technique Creative Escape. Unlike the ‘quick and dirty’ Creative Escape technique, however, Jootsing requires quite a bit of time and effort. Jootsing takes time, especially when dealing with complex systems, but you’ll find the results are well worth the effort. Using this method, you’ll be able to find creative solutions you otherwise would never have found.

The process

The Jootsing method consists of three steps. The steps are relatively easy, but each of the steps will take some time to complete.

Step 1: Study the system

Dive deep into the system in which your problem resides. Study the habits, the rules and the origin of important procedures. Read books, articles and research on the topic. And most importantly: talk to experts and ask many questions to fully understand the context of the problem.

Step 2: Understand the rules

To break the rules you first have to understand them. So make many notes. Make sure you write down all your insights. Describe the rules you have to take into account. Which ones seem most important? It’s usually the ‘unbreakable’ rules and the ‘inevitable’ procedures that are most interesting to explore further.

Step 3: Jump out of the system

Look at the rules you wrote down and figure out ways to break them one by one. Some rules will prove to actually be unbreakable, but if you take your time challenging each of the rules, you’ll find that some of the rules can definitely be circumvented. These are the insights that will be the basis of breakthrough solutions.


Would you like to learn more about stimulating creativity and innovation in your team?

We offer a variety of online training courses on the topics of creativity and innovation and help organisations solve their problems creatively. For more information, send me an email at I’ll gladly answer your questions.

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  • Saleh Taha

    Thank you for the article what a great article and very informative especially the point where you mentioned Jump out of the system, I totally agree with you on each and every single point.
    This is also an article about How to Pitch your Ideas which describes how to generate ideas and then pitching them.

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