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Outside-In Thinking

Thinking outside-the-box to find new major categories.

Outside the box

Outside-In Thinking tool is used to make sure you have found all of the Major Categories that encompass your problem. This technique can help you think “outside-the-box”. It's the polar opposite of the Inside-Out approach.

To perform Outside-In Thinking:

Step 1: List all of your major Factors and Forces.

Step 2: Identify which factors and forces you have little or no influence over.

Step 3: Create new ideas that might provide you with the capability to exert at least some influence over these factors and forces. Use Brainstorming with the mnemonic 'STEEP+2' (Social, Technical, Economic, Environmental, Political plus Military and Psychological).

Step 4: Determine if there are any new major categories of information revealed as a result of your 'STEEP+2' brainstorming session.

Step 5: Add any new Major Categories and update Factors, Forces, Sorting, and Drill Down.

Step 6: Review your major categories for completeness. Are there still any gaps in the broader conceptual framework of your problem?

Publications icon


Structured Analytic Techniques for Intelligence Analysis, Richards Heuer, Jr. and Randolph H. Pherson, Washington DC: CQ Press, 2011.

Handbook of Analytic Tools and Techniques, Randolph H. Pherson, Reston, VA: Pherson Associates, 2008.