Solving this problem requires people to literally think outside the box. Because the solution is, in hindsight, deceptively simple, clients tended to admit they should have thought of it themselves. That this advice is useless when actually trying to solve a problem involving a real box should effectively have killed off the much widely disseminatedand therefore, much more dangerousmetaphor that out-of-the-box thinking spurs creativity. In fact, only a meager 25 percent did. But you will find numerous situations where a creative breakthrough is staring you in the face. Or so their consultants would have them believe.
Thinking Outside the Box: A Misguided Idea
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The second group was told that the solution required the lines to be drawn outside the imaginary box bordering the dot array. There seemed to be no end to the insights that could be offered under the banner of thinking outside the box. Most people assume that 60 percent to 90 percent of the group given the clue would solve the puzzle easily. The idea went viral (via 1970s-era media and word of mouth, of course). In other words, the difference could easily be due to what statisticians call sampling error. Today many people are familiar with this puzzle and its solution. Only 20 percent managed to break out of the illusory confinement and continue their lines in the white space surrounding the dots. From, inside the Box: A Proven System of Creativity for Breakthrough Results. The symmetry, the beautiful simplicity of the solution, and the fact that 80 percent of the participants were effectively blinded by the boundaries of the square led Guilford and the readers of his books to leap to the sweeping conclusion that creativity requires you. One of Guilfords most famous studies was the nine-dot puzzle. He challenged research subjects to connect all nine dots using just four straight lines without lifting their pencils from the page.
Both teams followed the same protocol of dividing participants into two groups. Lets look a little more closely at these surprising results. In the 1970s, however, very few were even aware of its existence, even though it had been around for almost a century. The nine-dot puzzle and the phrase thinking outside the box became metaphors for creativity and spread like wildfire in, management, psychology, the creative arts, engineering, and personal improvement circles. Guilford was one of the first academic researchers who dared to conduct a study of creativity. After all, with one simple yet brilliant experiment, researchers had proven that the conceptual link between thinking outside the box and creativity was a myth.
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