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They are much more common than you probably think.*From Inside the Box: A Proven System of Creativity for Breakthrough Results Copyright 2014 Drew Boyd There are many theories of creativity.What the latest experiment proves is not that creativity lacks any association to thinking outside-the-box, but that such is not conditioned by acquired knowledge, i.e., environmental concerns.He challenged research subjects to connect all nine dots using just four straight lines without lifting their pencils from the page.Today many people are familiar with this puzzle and its solution.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.For example, there have been some theories such as those of Schopenhauer (see his remarks about Genius) and Freud (see his remarks about Sublimation) that propose creativity is something more like a capacity provided by nature rather than one acquired or learned from the environment.
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).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.Overnight, it seemed that creativity gurus everywhere were teaching managers how to think outside the box.Management consultants in the 1970s and 1980s even used this puzzle when making sales pitches to prospective clients.Although studying creativity is considered a legitimate scientific discipline nowadays, it is still a very young one. One of Guilford’s most famous studies was the nine-dot puzzle. Guilford was one of the first academic researchers who dared to conduct a study of creativity.Yet participants’ performance was not improved even when they were given specific instructions to do so.That is, direct and explicit instructions to think outside the box did not help.In the 1970s, however, very few were even aware of its existence, even though it had been around for almost a century.If you have tried solving this puzzle, you can confirm that your first attempts usually involve sketching lines inside the imaginary square.