Thinking Outside the Box

When we are faced with a problem or challenge, there are many things we can do to reach a solution.  There are also some things we can do to hinder ourselves from reaching our solution.  There are those quick fixes we sometimes use but they usually only last for a little while before our problem returns. Then we have the solution that addresses every past, present and future scenario you can throw at it.  Finding that solution is not always easy, in fact it makes that quick fix that much more desirable but it makes a statement towards your brand and your persona when others see the time and effort you put into solving a tricky situation. Sometimes we have to think outside the box to get the results we need.

Aside from my ItWorks and UWSP job, I took on a whole new challenge last summer by working cheer and dance camps all over the US.  Don’t get me wrong, I like dance but I never thought cheerleading was really that big of a deal… Boy way I wrong! My first cheer camp I had to steri strip a girl’s forehead and the next camp we had to c-spine two people at the same time on opposite sides of the field! Aside from being an athletic trainer, one camp I had to be the camp manager as well coordinating registration, housing, camp scheduling and any problem resolution needed.  This specific camp turned out to be the biggest challenge of my life.

Photo credit Universal Cheerleaders Association

Critical thinking came in handy first when we did not have enough beds for all the campers.  I enlisted the help of my co-workers to do the math (just to make sure I didn’t add an extra ten campers) while I called to see if we could get any extra mattresses.  We also had to solve the dilemma of having male campers that are not supposed to be housed with females as well as keep an entire floor for our staff.  We had to look outside the box, not just throw people wherever and hope it worked out.  Things I had to keep in mind were coaches had to be roomed alone, team rivals couldn’t be on the same floor, one of the administrators had to be on every other floor, and I had two days to figure it out.  The next time critical thinking saved us was when a problem arose with one of the teams. I had to bring in the big guns for this one and work with multiple people to determine what the true problem was and how to solve it.  This involved working with our staff to mentor the campers on the team and working alongside our head instructor to address the issues with coaches.  In the end, once all options had failed to resolve the problem, we had to ask the coach to leave and another took over her role.  While we tried to keep all parties happy, it was clear that for the safety of all the campers we needed something to change.

Photo Credit Aric Mitchell
Photo Credit Aric Mitchell

Critical thinking was so valuable because it allowed me to step back and look at the situations completely objectively and gather all the information I needed.  This is important for protecting both soft and hard ROI because not having satisfied campers/coaches can lead to less people returning next year (soft) and even requesting refunds (hard).  In the end, we were told by multiple coaches that with everything that happened they were very impressed with how we handled the situation and that they enjoyed the camp and would return.  Even the team involved in the situation thanked me and reported that they hope to see me again next summer. It truly spoke to my priority to keeping customers happy. Even though it was very hard and unpleasant to deal with, going through it made the resolution that much more enjoyable for the remainder of the camp.



  1. Hanna,
    This is a very good example of how you use critical thinking in you life. I like how you have shown that critical thinking can be used in any situation. Great pictures too. Good job overall.


  2. Hi Hanna:
    First, like your critical thinking graphic. Second, you provided us with a good read and some real life working examples of critical thinking put to use. You also demonstrated how critical thinking is looking at “a problem” globally, how it will affect the organization as a whole. Strategic thinking is narrowing down a problem, within a specific department or how it pertains to a certain project.

    As always, I like this from your content:

    “The next time critical thinking saved us was when a problem arose with one of the teams. I had to bring in the big guns for this one and work with multiple people to determine what the true problem was and how to solve it. ”

    Excellent thought Hanna — drilling down to the core of the problem! Looking at the surface and trying to fix the surface only causes more problems.



  3. Hanna,

    This is a great post! I love the example you gave and how you showed how critical thinking helped you solve these problems. It was a fun post to read. Keep up the good work!


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