Guilford was one of the first academic researchers who dared to conduct a study of creativity. Most people assume that 60 percent to 90 percent of the group given the clue would solve the puzzle easily. Because the solution is, in hindsight, deceptively simple, clients tended to admit they should have thought of it themselves. Only 20 percent managed to break out of the illusory confinement and continue their lines in the white space surrounding the dots. In the early s, a psychologist named J. In fact, only a meager 25 percent did.
Management consultants in the s and s even used this puzzle when making sales pitches to prospective clients. Overnight, it seemed that creativity gurus everywhere were teaching managers how to think outside the box. They are much more common than you probably think. In the early s, a psychologist named J. That is, direct and explicit instructions to think outside the box did not help. Indeed, the concept enjoyed such strong popularity and intuitive appeal that no one bothered to check the facts. Because the solution is, in hindsight, deceptively simple, clients tended to admit they should have thought of it themselves. Guilford was one of the first academic researchers who dared to conduct a study of creativity. It was an appealing and apparently convincing message. Today many people are familiar with this puzzle and its solution. Both teams followed the same protocol of dividing participants into two groups. Solving this problem requires people to literally think outside the box. No one, that is, before two different research teams —Clarke Burnham with Kenneth Davis, and Joseph Alba with Robert Weisberg—ran another experiment using the same puzzle but a different research procedure. 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. Most people assume that 60 percent to 90 percent of the group given the clue would solve the puzzle easily. The correct solution, however, requires you to draw lines that extend beyond the area defined by the dots. Or so their consultants would have them believe. He challenged research subjects to connect all nine dots using just four straight lines without lifting their pencils from the page. In other words, the difference could easily be due to what statisticians call sampling error. The second group was told that the solution required the lines to be drawn outside the imaginary box bordering the dot array. SHARE Although studying creativity is considered a legitimate scientific discipline nowadays, it is still a very young one. Only 20 percent managed to break out of the illusory confinement and continue their lines in the white space surrounding the dots. In fact, only a meager 25 percent did. 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 to go outside the box. In the s, however, very few were even aware of its existence, even though it had been around for almost a century. There seemed to be no end to the insights that could be offered under the banner of thinking outside the box. Speakers, trainers, training program developers, organizational consultants, and university professors all had much to say about the vast benefits of outside-the-box thinking.
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