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Speakers, trainers, training program developers, organizational consultants, and university professors all had much to say about the vast benefits of outside-the-box thinking.

It was an appealing and apparently convincing message.

Would you like to guess the percentage of the participants in the second group who solved the puzzle correctly?

He challenged research subjects to connect all nine dots using just four straight lines without lifting their pencils from the page.

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.

There seemed to be no end to the insights that could be offered under the banner of thinking outside the box.

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).

Even though they weren’t instructed to restrain themselves from considering such a solution, they were unable to “see” the white space beyond the square’s boundaries.

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