Update 2017-08-18: Fixed and removed some links.
Update 2015-12-15: Fixed some vocab links. Replaced Netspeak links with Youdao because Netspeak is blocked in China (?!?).
Update 2013-09-02: Removed broken links to Bing dictionary, replaced with links to Cambridge, Oxford & Macmillan. Added links to The Phrase FInder and The Free Dictionary at bottom.
My latest class on Marketing and Advertising reminded me of an example of very creative advertising from China.
"Outside the box" means to think or do something that is very creative and even unexpected or surprising.
A box is a container. It contains, it restrains, it limits. Our own habits can also be a container, restraining and limiting our ideas. So when we think outside the box, we try to break out of the limitations of our habits and try something new, original and unusual.
In business, we are sometimes asked to think outside the box in order to find a solution to a difficult problem; the usual, normal ideas are not working and we need to come up with something new (and hopefully better).
The yoga club was having trouble getting the attention of potential clients, and this advertising idea was unusual... but it worked.
So this example of advertising that put a person inside a box is a great example of thinking outside the box.
Some people feel the phrase "thinking outside the box" is used too much: it has become a cliché, abused by business people in general and consultants in particular.
But if you work in the modern business world and use English, you absolutely must know what this idiom means.
Update 2017-01-22: Added V.QQ.com clip and links.
Update 2011-05-12: I'm sorry, I just realized/remembered that of course Youtube is blocked in China. I will research some way to upload this video to a video site accessible in China.
I'm teaching a course on writing e-mails for business, with the first class focusing on tone: formal, neutral or casual.
I've also just started watching a British comedy series called The IT Crowd, which has a funny scene directly related to this issue.
Here's the clip (or click here to see it bigger on Youtube):
For people in China, I have found the clip on V.QQ.com and have embedded it below. The part about e-mail starts at 1'54".
In fact, V.QQ.com offers viewers in China the chance to watch the whole series:
G.A.L.E.S.L. / joe3
Some tips and links on learning English.