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Because the solution is, in hindsight, deceptively simple, clients tended to admit they should have thought of it themselves.
Because they hadn’t, they were obviously not as creative or smart as they had previously thought, and needed to call in creative experts. The nine-dot puzzle and the phrase “thinking outside the box” became metaphors for creativity and spread like wildfire in marketing, management, psychology, the creative arts, engineering, and personal improvement circles.
That is, direct and explicit instructions to think outside the box did not help.The correct solution, however, requires you to draw lines that extend beyond the area defined by the dots.At the first stages, all the participants in Guilford’s original study censored their own thinking by limiting the possible solutions to those within the imaginary square (even those who eventually solved the puzzle).The first group was given the same instructions as the participants in Guilford’s experiment.
The second group was told that the solution required the lines to be drawn outside the imaginary box bordering the dot array.Let’s look a little more closely at these surprising results.