Innovative Thinking – Neon Turtle – Blog 090

Coloring Outside Of The Lines


About a decade ago, our granddaughter of 8 was coming to stay with us for spring break.  If you or anyone you have ever known who has had the responsibility of entertaining an 8 year old for more than an hour, you know the fear my wife and I had anticipating her arrival.

In preparation, my wife to Wally-World and bought a big box of Crayons, and a half dozen coloring and activity books.  We were certain that hundreds of activity pages would keep her busy for an hour at least.

On the second morning, she asked if she could color a picture for me.  I said, yes that it was very important to me and that should take her time (giggle), and make it extra special.  And when she was done, if it turned out great, I would put it up on our refrigerator for the world to see!

(Where or when did they pass that law that all children’s works of art must be immediately posted to the nearest refrigerator?)

Her and I carefully went through all the coloring books, selecting possible candidates and eliminating non-contenders, until we hit on one.  We chose the Desert Tortoise.

She cleared the table, carefully aligned every color crayon, took a deep sigh and was about to begin coloring her masterpiece when I said.  “Sweetheart, this is very important to me, I want you to do something different.  I want you to color ‘outside’ of the lines.”

She looked up at me as if I said I had grown another nose.  What?  she asked.  Yep, color outside of the lines.

I said that for two reasons.  I was always trying to teach them to question everything and not just follow convention.  The second reason was, I had NO idea how anyone could color outside of the lines!  I wanted to see what happened.About this time, my wife gave me a dirty look as I was always screwing with the grandkids heads.  She knew if I had a round room, I would tell them to go sit in the corner.  I wanted to see what it took for smoke to come out of their ears.

She agreed and I left her to her to her work.  After 20 minutes or so, I knew the joke was on me.  She had completed the coloring and it was freaking amazing!  She had taken the brightest colors in the box, and outlined the shapes with the colors she would have normally filled in.  The bright colors adjacent to the black lines and white background made the image vibrate.  It was almost iridescent!

The image below, is unfortunately, not hers and unless you bought the Premium Color paperback, it’s not in color.  Her masterpiece remained on our fridge for months until it got dog-eared and discolored and had to be retired to the recycle bin.  (After she was long gone back home of course.)

Sometimes the masterpiece is hidden right in front of you if only you can look at everything differently.  You need to look outside of the box and color outside of the lines.

Wayne Dyer once said, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at will change.”

I tried to reproduce her work of art on the computer, but could only approximate her genius.  She actually colored outside of the lines and it was great!



“There are nights when the wolves are silent and only the moon howls. ”

-George Carlin



Lon Safko
Serial Innovator, Keynote Speaker, Trainer, Innovative Thinking


Tags: innovative thinking, creative, creative thinking, Innovation, critical thinking definition, innovation definition, critical thinking skills, creative process

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