Business English

Think outside the box

If you’re faced with a unique and complicated issue at work, you may need to think outside the box to find a solution.

When you think outside the box, you try to use your imagination to come up with new and unusual ideas. The purpose of thinking outside the box is to challenge yourself to think differently about a subject, so that you can approach it from a new perspective and ideally, produce original ideas and solutions.

Put something on the back burner

When you put something on the back burner, you put it on hold to deal with at a later time. You could put something on the back burner because it’s not important, it’s not urgent, or you just don’t have the time or resources to deal with it at the moment. Regardless of the reason, if you put something on the back burner, you have judged it to be low priority.

The big picture

When we look at the big picture, we view a situation as a whole. We do not focus on the small details of its individual parts.

Have you ever worked on a long-term project that was delayed because too much time was spent on the small details? When we look at the big picture, we focus on the most important facts of a situation. We then evaluate how those facts will affect the overall situation in the future. 

Up in the air

If you’re working on resolving an issue but the outcome is still uncertain, you can say it’s up in the air. This means that there are still actions or decisions that need to be made before it is settled.

If you’re planning a meeting or business trip but the exact details are not confirmed, you can say it’s up in the air. This implies that you have a general idea of what you’re going to do, but the details still need to be decided.

Draw up

Hands drawing up a contract

The words "draw" and "up" take on a new meaning when you put them together. The idiomatic phrase "draw up" is usually used to talk about plans or contracts. It means to prepare a written document with details of a plan or arrangement. 

Draw up can be used in any tense. Here are some examples of how to use it:

Across the board

Organization network analysis on a presentation board

If something applies to everyone or everything, it's across the board. It's most often used to talk about money. 

Here are some examples of how to use this phrase:

  • The new tax rates apply across the board.
  • Good news! Our profits were so good last quarter, we'll be giving bonuses across the board!

You can also use it as an adjective: